Labrador History - 6.1 RELIEF NURSE

Mary TaylorChapter 6

MY FIRST FURLOUGH

6.1 RELIEF NURSE
The nurse who came to relieve me for my furlough was Mona Laird from Castle Douglas Scotland As a girl Mona wanted to be a missionary so she entered nursing school in Dumfries and started training. All the time, however, she knew something was missing in her life despite reading her Bible and trying to live like a Chnstian She found what it was in her last year of training when she personally accepted Christ as her own Saviour.
Coming to Newfoundland for one year (as she thought) Mona had been working in Southern Newfoundland and being interested in missionary work was praying that the Lord would guide her While there concerned about her next move she met Bert Joyce who told her about the work in Labrador Shortly after Bert sent Mona a telegram telling her that I was going on a prolong d leave and that there would be an opening in Forteau Bert suggested that if she was interested in relieving me she should get in touch with Dr Thomas in St Anthony Taking this to be an indication from the Lord Mona applied to Dr Thomas and was accepted.
At that very time, however, there was a staff shortage at St. Anthony and she was needed there, so was not sent over to Forteau right away. This was a disappointment to me, naturally, because it meant I was unable to be at my brother’s wedding.
Mona came to St. Anthony in the middle of August and started Work next day. One of her first patients was my friend Mary Barney, from L’Anse-au-Loup, so after that Mona found out which patients were from Forteau and went to see them. One was Stirling, the little boy with the bad axe wound. The nurses were concerned about him because he refused to eat, so Mona took him for a walk one day, when she was off duty.
“The other nurses tell me that you don’t want to eat,” she said to him, “What’s wrong?”
“Do they have any bread and Molasses here?” he asked. That was what he was used to eating at home!
They soon had Stirling eating and he did very well. Sometimes this happened because Hospital diets were quite different from local fare. People of the coast were used to eating things like fish and brewis, salt cod and salt beef, as well as ducks, etc. when they were available. More urban foods, like hospital provisions, were a bit unconventional to them.
I was in Red Bay doing my fall clinic the day Mona arrived in Forteau, so she looked after my post natal patient (“Aunt” Mary’s great-niece) until I returned. As soon as I got back from Red Bay, I began familiarizing Mona with the routine at the nursing station, for I was leaving in a few days time.
Mona did not see any dental extractions in St. Anthony because nothing came up while she was there. I let her watch the one extraction I did in those few days we overlapped, but it was not the same and I wanted her to do one on her own before I left. Alas, no one else came in with a toothache that day. Knowing Ethel had a bad toothache we persuaded her to let Mona practice on her, and she obliged and Mona got her experience. Mona, however, never did get to like extractions and later she said that, after I left and she did an extraction, she would give the local anaesthetic and then go into the living room for ten minutes, spending the time praying. A good practice dentists should copy!
I arranged to sell my Morris Oxford to George. The old car was used a lot, both to visit patients and to attend meetings at the Gospel Hall, so my selling it would leave Mona without a means of getting around. I explained this to George, asking him to help her out by giving her a lift from time to time.
“I don’t have time to take the nurse around!” he replied abruptly. Future events, however, changed his opinion.
I left in the middle of September and Mona, so to speak, got dumped in at the deep end! In one day she had an emergency call to Capstan Island (a settlement about fifteen miles south east of Forteau) to see a little girl who had fallen down the basement stairs and hit her head and, later that night, admitted an antenatal patient, whom she delivered in the wee early hours. A busy start!
A couple of weeks later she was off to Red Bay to finish the clinic I had started, and did her first solo dental extraction before she got off the boat! The coastal steamer had come in at 6:30 a.m. and left shortly after, stopping at L’Anse-au-Loup on the way down to Red Bay. At L’Loup the patient had came on board, looking for the nurse!
In the meantime I was making my way across the continent, finally reaching Vancouver. It had been quite a trip. I spent the weekend with George’s aunt and uncle in Vancouver, who told me George and Mona were engaged. Imagine my surprise!
Meanwhile, back in Labrador, the Lord was still working and souls were being saved Aunt Suse s son Stanford and his wife were saved that fall, about seven weeks after I left.

Goerge and Mona Campbell with David. 1962.

Goerge and Mona Campbell with David. 1962.

“Aunt” Suse’s son-in-law, Ken, took Mona to Pinware by road to have a clinic, and mentioned that his mother-in-law wanted them to call in at West St. Modeste on the way back - she wanted to see Mona Aunt Suse told Mona that her son Stanford got saved the night before. Mona, in turn, was delighted with the good news aud told Ken.
“Oh,” he said, “Mabel will be happy to hear that.” (His wife Mabel, “Aunt” Suse’s daughter, was herself saved.)
“There’s some other good news I’m sure she would love to hear,” Mona said, meaning news that Ken had trusted Christ as his Saviour.
“Oh. I guess so,” he replied.
That night George and Mona became engaged.
Stanford had been having episodes of haematuria (blood in the urine) for some time. He had been checked in St. Anthony, but no definite cause had been found for the TB germ is hard to pick up at times. Mona wanted him to return to St. Anthony for more tests but he refused, probably because nothing had been found on previous occasions. In later years he was found to have tuberculosis of the kidney and had to have surgery. He was talented and during his convalescence made many beautiful lamps and jewelry boxes out of popsicle sticks but, more importantly in times of hospitalisation he was a real testimony to other patients, telling them of his faith in the Lord Jesus.
On Christmas Eve 1960 Mona joined her fiance at the home of my friend Mary for supper, and attended a children’s program afterwards, which they both enjoyed. The following day there was one at English Point. Children learned choruses and Bible verses and did very well repeating them, and at the end of the program each received a little gift.
By now the Joyce family (and Jane) were settled in Red Bay. A few days after Christmas Bert and Emily flew up to Cartwright to visit Sheila and Louise, two of the nurses, and had a children’s meeting there. On the way back to Red Bay they stopped at Charlottetown, Labrador, where Ed John Flynn was teaching school, he and his wife having moved there with their three children that fall. At Charlottetown they picked up Warren, a young man who had been helping in the new work, and moved on.

Rescuing the plane that sank in the Bay.

Rescuing the plane that sank in the Bay. 


Their take-off was hindered by water on the ice, so Bert turned back towards the shore for another attempt. As he turned, one ski went through the ice, tipping the plane on its side. Warren jumped out and opened the door so Bert could get out. The water was already up to the seats and, after he got out, Bert helped Emily but she went up to her waist in water. They were able to get up onto solid ice and so to shore. It was a narrow escape, for the plane went down very quickly.
The next day the temperature dropped to twenty-five degrees below zero Fahrenheit - that’s around minus thirty-two Celsius - and the plane froze into the ice, nose first. “Uncle” Ace Wensel chopped the plane out with an axe! After cutting the ice round the plane, it took a large number of people to pull it to dry ground; such was the weight of ice. The propeller was bent.
When they heard about the accident, George and some local men went to Red Bay by snowmobile and on to Charlottetown by the Mission plane. Emily returned to Red Bay on the mail plane the following day.
After the plane was pulled out of the water, the salt water and ice had to be drained. It was propped up inside a steam tent made with an old oil drum, and the engine was flushed through several times with oil, to get the water out. Bert had ordered a new propeller as soon as he got out of the plane (the radio was still working) and this arrived only two or three days later on the mail plane.
It was two weeks before the plane was dried out and the new propeller installed so it could be flown out. Bert took it up on a test flight and all appeared to be well, so he decided to fly to Halifax for a proper servicing.
“If you’re willing to risk your life - so am I!” George said.
The two of them made their decision, but Mona must have been worried, as was Emily. Bert flew as far as Red Bay, where a winter storm delayed them for several days, but finally he and George got away. They flew to Pasadena (near Corner Brook) and landed there, and were further delayed by yet another storm!
Finally, thanks to God watching over them, they arrived in Halifax, and Bert put the plane in a hanger. Next morning, when the aero-mechanics arrived, they thought there had been a flood in the hanger because there was so much water where the ice had melted! Bert was fortunate to get the plane to Halifax before it sustained too much salt-water damage.
Mona had little let up. One night, before Christmas, she had been to L’Anse-au-Clair to see a patient who had had a severe heart attack, and she stayed up with him all night. Next morning the plane took him to St. Anthony. The patient recovered from this attack but had another one three months later. On that later occasion, a very stormy morning, Mona had two women in labour and was unable to leave the Nursing Station.
These two mothers-to-be produced three children in two hours! A young woman, expecting her first, came for a routine check-up and Mona, suspecting twins, planned to send her to St. Anthony, but the woman went into labour in the early hours of the morning.
At 9:00 a.m. that morning another woman came in and delivered only 30 minutes later! Then came the message from L’Anse-auClair about the heart attack patient!
Mona planned to send Ethel and instructed her on how to give morphine, and the family sent someone to pick her up. Just as the dog team arrived, however, a message came to the telegraph office to say the patient had died. Shortly after that the twins (boys) arrived, both difficult deliveries. One of these was a breech birth, so it was a busy morning! On the whole, Mona had a very busy winter while I was away.
A ‘flu epidemic hit and there was one point at which she had twenty patients in the station, many of them babies! There were babies everywhere, even in her own room! There were only so many cots and, at one stage, she had to put two in one cot, had adults in the guestroom, and even had to use the aides’ room as a ward. Mona sent the girls home to sleep that time. The night the twentieth patient arrived, a young boy who fell while skating and knocked himself out, she put him in her own bed. Next day, to make room for him, she discharged an elderly lady who lived in the village (Forteau).
One night she was told an elderly man was dying over at Buckle’s Point and, although no one had sent for her, she went to see him. She found that, although the man did have high blood pressure, he wasn’t dying at that point, so she read the Bible and prayed with him while she was there. After that she walked over to see him every day she was able, if the weather was fit. She was walking through Forteau on her way there one day, when “Uncle” Joe stopped her as she passed his house.
“Where are you off to?” he asked.
She told him.
“It isn’t fit today! It’s too stormy for a young nurse to be out alone.”
She didn’t know how dangerous it was to be out in a blizzard. Mona thought to herself, “I guess ignorance is bliss!”