Labrador History - 3.6 FALL MEDICAL TRIP

Arriving in Forteau that fall of 1955, I was soon back into the routine of daily clinics. The Lord was working and, from time to time, I had opportunities to talk of spiritual things. It was shortly after my return that a woman in labour was brought to the nursing station by her husband from L’Anse-au-Loup. He brought her in a boat, travelling round the headland of Point Amour, where the sea could be quite rough. It was rough this time, but they arrived safely and later that day a baby girl was born. The mother, Mary, had had a baby the first Christmas I was in Forteau, so now she had three girls and a boy.
During her stay at the nursing station, Mary and I had many talks on spiritual things and I felt she showed an interest. Later she told me that she had felt the need of something more in her life than the routine of living, working and raising a family. She used to listen to Christian programs on the radio, such as the “People’s Gospel Hour” and the “Old Fashioned Revival Hour.” I enjoyed listening to these programs too, especially when there was no church service on Sundays. These programs showed Mary her need of the Saviour and she became concerned that she was not ready to meet God.
Four or five years previously her little boy Leonard, a baby at the time, had been very sick with some type of viral illness and had nearly died. In fact the nurse who was in Forteau at the time gave him an injection into the muscle of his heart to revive him. Mary had naturally been praying for the baby, as we all do in times of stress, and had promised God that if Leonard recovered she would serve Him for the rest of her life. He did recover, but it was about Six years before she fulfilled her promise - she was seeking God but did not know how to find Him. Fourteen months later, storm bound in L’Anse-au-Loup one night, I visited Mary, and had the joy of pointing her to the Saviour. We have been close friends ever 8ince.
Changes were coming in more ways than one. The road was i built in Quebec Labrador from Blanc Sablon to Long Point had been partly constructed over the hill at L’Anse-au-Clair.
The section from L’Anse-au-Clair to Forteau was under construction, proceeding from both ends. There was no problem landing vehicles for the L’Anse-au-Clair side of the road, as there was a Government wharf at Blanc Sablon in Quebec where trucks could be landed, but it was a different story at Forteau.
I remember when the first truck was landed in Forteau from the Northern Ranger, one of the coastal boats. When the steamer arrived in Forteau the truck had to be landed by raft, as there was no wharf big enough for the steamer to land it directly. Two motor boats, one on each side, pulled this raft to shore - a very precarious operation.
Travelling by road was a treat and it helped our work, as well as helping break down the isolation. One day, shortly after Mary’s baby was born, I got a message from the local midwife in L’Anseau-Clair, Mrs. Dumaresque, saying she was attending a woman in labour about whom she was concerned. Some women preferred having a baby at home with a local midwife and others, like this woman, got caught at home when the baby arrived early. Midwives did an excellent job with a normal delivery, but called the nurse when there was a difficulty, just as Mrs. Dumaresque had done.
The road to L’Anse-au-Clair had been partly finished, as mentioned above, so I used a truck on the Forteau side to travel to the section still under construction, walked across this, and was met on the L’Anse-au-Clair side by another truck. I loved dogs, but what a difference when human life was at stake!
When I arrived I was told that Louisa, the patient, was not making much progress. This was her second baby. Her first had also been premature, and had been born at the nursing station the first summer I was in Forteau. That was the one we had nicknamed “Boots” because, as she lay in her crib, she was so small that the first one could see of her was a pair of bootees sticking up in the air when she kicked!
On examining Louisa I found that the baby’s forehead was coming first, a position which would normally be impossible to deliver. I prayed and asked the Lord to show me what to do, for it was impossible to move the mother down to the nursing station in her advanced stage of labour. Exploiting the fact that the baby was small and slightly premature, I tried to turn its head so the face would come first and I got away with it. I was able to deliver the baby in that position, and another baby boy was safely brought into the world - much to my relief.
I decided to take the baby back to the nursing station with me so I could keep an eye on him, since I was returning the same way I had come, by road. Wrapping him warmly, we put the baby in a Carnation milk box for ease of transportation, and surrounded him with cotton batten and warm blankets. The return trip was made without incident. When I got back to the nursing station, I placed little Philip on the open door of the oven to get warm, and he continued to do very well, weighing just under five pounds. 
Yes! Travelling by road was a treat.
These two patients being safely delivered, and there being no new babies due for a couple of weeks, I decided to start my annual fall medical trip to see patients, do immunisations, etc. Many peopie could not get to the station in Forteau, so I went to them. Getting transportation was not always easy, though, especially at this time of the year The weather was quite stormy making it difficult to travel by small motor boat, and the coastal boat was not due for
awhile While trying to find alternative means of transportation I heard via the grapevine that Mr Organ who owned a store in Red Bay was in town He had a larger boat with cabin accommodation and was leaving for Red Bay right after lunch. He agreed to take me.
I hurriedly packed my bags prepared drugs and medical supplies for different settlements checked the medical box that I al Way took with me and we set off The sea was rough so I lay on a bunk to avoid being sea sick but was still not feeling too bright when we reached Red Bay later that afternoon. I decided to take it for the rest of the day and start clinic the next morning.
I was enjoying a welcome cup of tea in the warmth ofBlanche’s itchen (she was the storekeeper’s wife in whose home we did our clinics) when someone arrived to say that there was a message from Forteau requesting me to return to the nursing station. An antenatal  patient had come in early complaining of pain; she thought she was going into labour. It was her first baby and she was not due for another couple of weeks, but when duty calls one had to go, especially in maternity work. I finished my cup of tea while Blanche contacted Mr. Organ to see if he would be willing to take me home. He agreed and, after another rough trip, we arrived back in Forteau in the early evening.
Arriving in Forteau I found that my patient was not in too much distress after all, but the whole thing turned out to be of the Lord, for that evening I received an urgent call to a local home, where a little girl was very sick with bronchitis. She was having difficulty with breathing and was quite wheezy, so we brought her to the nursing station and put her in a steam tent. She had a bad night but towards morning her breathing became easier and she fell asleep. Continuing to improve, she was soon able to go home. My antenatal patient’s pains had subsided in the meantime, and she slept all night, but I could see the hand of God at work, as I was needed back home in Forteau to take care of the little girl.
As my patient was not due for another couple of weeks I decided once more to try to do my medical trip. Some of Bertha’s relatives were in Forteau collecting lumber and they agreed to take me as far as L’Anse-au-Loup in their motor boat. We set off, with me perched up in the bow of the boat and my medical box surrounded by lumber! The sea was quite rough around Point Amour and I was glad to get to L’Anse-au-Loup. It was rarely that I got sick but it was nice to get out of the cold and sit beside that stove! Mr. & Mrs. Normore made me very welcome in L’Anse-au-Loup and I spent the night with them. The people in Labrador were always so hospitable to strangers and gave the best they had, often going without themselves.
The weather was fine next morning and the wind had dropped, so I continued my journey to Red Bay. One had to learn to be patient when weather conditions prevented travel - one of the lessons I learned on the Labrador! Arriving in Red Bay before lunch, I was able to get my clinic started early in the afternoon and, after a couple of days there, found someone willing to take me to Pinware, and continued my immunizations and clinics there.
In West St. Modeste I had a nice visit with “Aunt” Mary. She had heard I was coming and had made some rolls and peanut butter cookies especially for me - a kind old soul! I held clinic in a little room at the back of “Aunt” Mary’s house while patients waited in her large kitchen, and could hear them talking as I worked. One man related a tale of the time Dr. Grenfell extracted a tooth for him with no anesthetic.
“Just the cold steel, mind you,” he said. This did not instill confidence in those who were patiently waiting to see the nurse to have their own teeth extracted!
It was during this trip that I saw a few cases of what appeared to be early measles, and this diagnosis was confirmed later in the fall. We had quite an epidemic, some of the children were very sick, and there was not much we could do. Aspirin helped keep down the fever, we gave them lots of fluids and kept them in bed in a dark room. At first the children were so sick they did not mind, but as they recovered they would not stay in bed! Fortunately we did not have too many complications, such as chest infections, and those who did responded to treatment with penicillin or sulphonamide drugs. I was kept pretty busy for awhile doing home visits.
The disease spread from village to village and one day I received a call to go to L’Anse-au-Diable, a fishing village with three or four families at the foot of the Battery (that hill we had difficulty with in the winter.) Fortunately, it was only November so we were able to make it there by boat, although it was pretty cold. We used a canvas tent over the front of the boat to cut down the wind chill. When I arrived I found practically every child had the measles and some of the adults too. There were only a few families in each settlement but they were large families, some with ten or twelve children. I spent the night in one home and was given a room of my own, and felt rather guilty about it, as I could not figure out how everyone else would fit in such a small house.
Next morning I went on to see patients in other settlements in the area, namely Capstan Island, West St. Modeste and Pinware. In one home in Pinware I found everyone sick, although some of the older children were on the mend. The mother was quite sick herself; she appeared to have bronchitis or early pneumonia, so I decided to take her and her little two year old girl back to the nursing station with me. We couldn’t take the mother and leave the child, for there was no one to look after her, but the two-year-old was quite sick in her own right, so it was just as well. It was a bad epidemic. In later years I was able to immunize babies against measles and there have been few cases since that time.
In addition to all of this activity we had four deliveries in October and four in November. One of these was a first baby. The mother had a very rapid and almost painless first stage of labour, but some difficulty in the second stagc. Once again I had to do a forceps delivery but, fortunately, there were no difficulties and the little girl was fine.
Christmas time, my third, came around again with all of its activities. We had been quite busy and had two more deliveries in December, then a twelve year old boy was brought into the clinic with a bad axe wound on his right knee. The cut was quite deep but I was able to suture it. I admitted him nevertheless, because the cut was through to the bone and I was afraid of infection. With a week’s treatment of Penicillin, as a preventative measure, he did very well and was home just before Christmas.
The year ended with a bang! On Christmas Day I delivered my first Christmas baby, a boy. I was cooking the dinner at the time, having invited a friend to share it with me, when the baby’s mother was admitted, but a Grenfell nurse is always on duty! The following day I delivered another baby boy. This time the mother had quite a bad bleed after the baby was born but I was able to bring the bleeding under control with the help of injections. Hemorrhage is always a worrying complication in midwifery and every nurse dreads it, especially in isolated conditions.
The year had been a busy one, and there had been small signs of a spiritual awakening, although I didn’t read them at the time. The Lord’s leading had been in various ways and His work was about to take a leap forward, but we didn’t know it - yet.