Nurse In Charge

Nurse in Charge
By Mandy Poole

ST. LEWIS – With a population of about 220 people, St. Lewis is home to three grocery stores, a single gas station, a post office, an all-grade school, a crab processing plant and the St. Lewis Clinic. Inside that clinic is Victoria Paul.

Paul is an outport nurse who began nursing in Labrador in 1982. At that time, she was stationed in Port Hope Simpson, Labrador.

“I chose Port Hope Simpson because that’s the name very similar to the name of where I came from – Port Hope, Ontario, so that’s how I ended up there,” said Paul.

When Paul first decided she would come to Labrador to complete her clinical training, she didn’t know Labrador was a part of the mainland.

Getting there

“I flew from Toronto to Gander and then got on a smaller plane the next morning and flew from Gander to St. Anthony, and I didn’t think we were going to make it,” she said.

“I thought we were going to crash a couple of times, because all of a sudden the plane would start to nose drive. What I found out after was that where I was sitting up close to the pilot, he was diving down lower because he saw a moose and he had wanted to show the nurse, but I didn’t realize that.”

Paul said she was terrified at some points, but when she finally reached her destination, that’s when the real story began.

“I didn’t know where I was getting off, the plane was very small, and the pilot finally turned around and said, ‘when that lady over there gets off, you get off.’”
Paul said she noticed that the lady had red hair like she did. Her name was Betty Sampson; they eventually became very good friends and still are to this day.

When the plane landed on the ice – there were no airstrips back then – it was quite rough. She was greeted by someone with a snowmobile and a komatik and was told that’s how she would be getting to the clinic.

“I was put in the komatik and half way up the hill it tipped over and I ended up in the snow. So it was quite the adventure, just getting there at the time,” chuckled Paul.

Language and lifestyle

One of the first things Paul noticed about life in Labrador was the language.

“Even though it’s supposed to be English, there are different words that we interpret to be something else – one of them being the ‘bridge.’”

On one particular stormy day, Paul received a call from a neighbouring community. The frantic caller had said their daughter had fallen off the bridge and dented her head in.

“Of course, it was stormy and I couldn’t get out – I couldn’t remember ever seeing that bridge that they were talking about. I wasn’t sure; I kept asking, ‘How high was the bridge?’ ‘What was under the bridge?’ and I wasn’t getting clear cut answers.”

A couple of days later when the weather had cleared, Paul quickly flew out to the community and discovered that the ‘bridge’ that the caller had spoken of meant the steps coming from the side of the house.

“That’s what they called a bridge, and I had worried for days about this little girl, and I didn’t know, but because of the weather we couldn’t get to her any faster. Then I understood that if the people there thought it was that bad, they would have been bringing her in to Port Hope.”

Besides misunderstandings, Paul had to adjust to many more challenges as an outport nurse.

“From October/November until May, the one road around town would be shut down for trucks, and we would have to use snowmobiles to get us around,” she said “We depended on boats or planes to get us in or out, and as nurses we escort some very sick patients to the hospital (in St. Anthony) to receive further medical care.”

Even food was a big factor in the early days of her time in Labrador.

“We used to have to order enough food twice a year to last not only for the nurse(s) but also for everyone travelling to the nursing station for clinics – taking into mind not just what everybody liked but what if the weather came down and people got stuck for extra time?”

When Paul was debriefed after coming out of her first clinical program in Labrador, her response was, “Well, I lived.”
She said some things were very scary and some things were much unknown.

“We were doing a lot of things that in normal nursing roles you wouldn’t be doing – like in a hospital – but I came out, I survived it.”
In smaller towns around the coast, said Paul, the clinics dispense medications for the patients to take home, while in more urban areas you would only get a prescription note. Paul also said that communication between nurses and doctors about patient advice happens over the phone, rarely ever in person.

“At the end of your work day you don’t just leave and have someone else take over the care of a patient. We are on call in case problems arise,” said Paul.

Lure of the Labrador wild

After her first time in Labrador, Paul worked in Africa. She said she knew from an early age that when she was to become a nurse, she wanted to practice in the Arctic and in Africa.

“I don’t know if it was because of my age or if I had watched too much Tarzan on TV or what it was. I knew it wasn’t just regular nursing that I wanted more outport type of nursing and that was right from the beginning. That was why I took the International Health Course after I did my RN.”

Paul’s advisors asked her if she would come back to Labrador again, but her plans for Africa were underway.

Paul did volunteer work while in Africa. She says the type of nursing practiced there was very different in comparison to what she was used to. At one point the staff at the hospital wanted her to run the emergency department. She felt at that time she wasn’t ready for that and decided to venture back to Canada, and on to Labrador.

Paul went on to work in Port Hope Simpson again, finding relief that, unlike Africa, if she needed a hand, a doctor at the end of the phone could help her if she had any questions.

“The other nurses in the other clinics, we often rely on their experiences and judgement,” said Paul, who went on to work in Port Hope Simpson again in 1983. Paul worked in Port Hope Simpson and then went on to Mary’s Harbour, Charlottetown, St. Lewis and Cartwright.

Despite all of the extra duties that Paul has been faced with, she said living in Labrador has its good points too.

“You get to share in the whole life of a patient . . . As nurses, we were invited into the homes, culture and lives of the communities where we worked.”

Strong ethics

With the time Paul spent in Labrador, her values and standards as a nurse had shined through.

“I think a lot of it was I had terrific parents. Even though my mother died when I was 16, I think that a lot of her kindness and giving – that rubbed off on me from a very early age.”

Paul said good values were always important to her and her family.

“I worked from an early age. We always had to do chores. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we made the best of every situation. I think that just coming from not having everything handed to me – if I have something I’d always share it and that’s what I continue to do at this time in my life.”

Even now Paul carries those values with her and has passed them on to her only child, daughter Sasha. Paul was pregnant with Sasha while she lived and worked in Labrador.

“I was nine months pregnant, and it was my first night not on call when I got a call that a girl from another community was pregnant and having problems. The weather was down, and we could not get a plane or a doctor in, so it was only me and a midwife book I had.”

Paul said the patient and the baby were fine. Everything went smoothly. In the end, she had to go and rest because she herself was having contractions every five minutes, but everything settled down and Sasha was delivered in St. Anthony by a midwife around her due date.

Sasha lived with Paul for a time while she was stationed in St. Lewis; Paul said she became a ‘true Labradorian’ quite easily even though Sasha had been reluctant at first.

“(Sasha) said that every time I talked about Labrador I had a big smile on my face about the type of nursing I did, so she wanted to see what it was like. I had to promise her three things: a new computer, a Ski-Doo and ‘Don’t make me talk like the others.’ But within two weeks’ time she was as local as can be.”

Sasha currently lives away from Labrador with her husband Lorenzo in Edmonton.

Perks of small town life

During her time in Labrador, Paul has touched the lives of many people. One person in particular is Cara Chubbs. She and her husband Neil have had three children, all of which Paul had helped in prenatal care.

“Victoria is there to answer any questions my husband and I may have regarding the kids’ health, whether it be during or after clinic hours,” said Chubbs.

“We had three pregnancies that I had complications early on … as well as going into labour three weeks preterm with our second child, and she was the nurse that we called.”

Chubbs spoke of Paul with fondness. Chubbs said Paul does a great job as the nurse in charge and as a community member as a whole.

“I think she has had a great impact on the community as she has nursed here for many years while also serving as a member on the town council, volunteering with organizations and events in town.”

Dora Poole, who works with Paul at the St. Lewis Clinic, also said that Paul is a great nurse in charge and that she treats everyone with respect.

“She takes pride in her work and has real concern for her patients,” said Poole. “I think she has a real impact on the community because she’s been here for a long time, knows the peoples medical history and don’t mind giving a helping hand when needed.”
“She is truly an amazing person.”

True Labrador Nurse

As winter fades into spring in St. Lewis, the nurse in charge remains happy with the course that her life is taking.

“I worked independent for a number of years while I was raising my daughter. I ran my own business in foot care and I taught foot care at a college in Ottawa. I worked with doctors in Calgary with foot care, so I can’t see me not doing something in nursing whether it’s the outpost nursing or whether I start up my own business again.”

Whatever Paul decides, the people of St. Lewis will be behind her and proud that she has helped this community for so long.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here; I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t.”

Hills Cove

This is where I come from, this is who I am.

I was raised here until I was four years old. My parents were forced to relocate to St. Lewis, Labrador, so that I could get the medical attention I needed (I had seizures as a kid). They also wanted me to go to school of course.

This little ‘village’ had only three families. Three different sets of Poole’s.  On the house to the far right lived Me, Dad and Mom. The middle house was my grandparents, Hubert and Doris, on occasion my Aunts Lucy and Loretta would be there as well, sometimes my Uncle Barry. The third house is missing from the photo, My Uncle Jim (now deceased) and Aunt Doreen.

I have very few memories of the place. A lot of the memories I do ‘remember’ are things that I think people have just told me about the place and I just inserted them into my mind’s vault and called them mine.

I was told that as a kid I would eat at my parents house and run over to my grandparents house with my rubber boots on, asking for food once I got in the door cuz “Mom never fed me.”

Guess that explains some things now.

I was also told that my cousin Tim (Uncle Jim’s son) and I used to fish for Rock Cods and Scuplins off of a large rock down from my house. My grandmother also told me that she used to take me for a ‘row around the cove’ when I was too fussy to sleep and the waves would put me to sleep.

One thing I do remember quite clearly happened in my Uncle Jim’s kitchen. I remember the sun just starting to go down, the way the strands of light flickered in the window made of tinted yellow plexi-glass. I remember Aunt Doreen and Uncle Jim looking out the glass window on the opposite wall saying, “Look, look!” and I jumped up to the other window and saw whales blowing in the cove. I think there were four of them. I didn’t know what they were at the time, but the memory always stuck with me and I found out later on that they were Orcas (aka: Killer Whales).

I guess the real point to this blog is this; it doesn’t matter where you came from, or where you’re headed – home is just that special place in your heart that will never go away. Hills Cove is that place for me, I hope I can go back there someday.

the Troubadour Online — Egypt story

Broken promises: Egyptian woman believes Mubarak falls short as leader

By Stephanie Tobin and Mandy Poole

Egyptian demonstratorsEgyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s refusal to step down from his position has caused protests throughout Egypt and sent shockwaves through the Middle East.

Mubarak’s 30-year reign has been riddled with controversy concerning preferential treatment of specific groups of people in Egypt.

Naglaa Eldessouky is an Egyptian citizen working on her post-doctorate in Environmental Policy at the Grenfell campus of Memorial University in Corner Brook.  Eldessouky believes that the corruption within the current cabinet of ministers has served the business people more than the everyday person in areas such as unemployment, education and healthcare services.

“The people don’t believe what he’s saying just right now,” said Eldessouky. “We had the promises and the promises and the promises all over these 30 years before.”

Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman is the first vice-president the country has seen in the 30 years Mubarak has held presidential power. Suleiman was previously Mubarak’s Intelligence Chief and confidant.

Eldessouky does not believe the newly appointed vice-president has done much to help with the current situation in Egypt.

“Why also the vice president didn’t interfere and stop all of this kill innocent people, if you’re serious and if you are searching for the real democracy,” said Eldessouky.

Reports are not clear about how many people have died in these protests. However, a United Nations official estimated that it is possible 300 people have been killed in confrontations between police, anti-Mubarak protestors and Mubarak supporters.

“Both sides are stubborn,” said Eldessouky when asked about the conflict between Egyptians. “It’s time now and if we lose the chance it won’t come again, you know.

“The situation is very vague,” Eldessouky continued. “You don’t know who will win and who will lose and who will insist and who will leave but I’m quite sure that the people just right now want something tangible, want a real democracy, want to end up all this corruption; all this unemployment; all this corrupted system. After 30 years we have to have a new page, you know?”

CNN reported that the crisis in Egypt forced the closure of banks, train stations, schools, and caused local markets to quickly run out of staple foods.

Eldessouky believes Mubarak was a key component in maintaining balance with Egypt’s international relations. However, she does believe international relations would suffer should he resign.

As of Feb. 7, the Egyptian government met for its first formal meeting since the uprising began. They announced a 15 per cent salary increase for government employees to take effect in April of this year.

“It is terrible the situation and my heart is really broken,” Eldessouky said of the violence taking place during demonstrations. “A lot of innocent people was killed and this is the worst part of the story.”

There does not seem to be an end in sight for the conflict over in Egypt. The conflict is not only in Cairo and Alexandria, but also in the smaller regions throughout Egypt’s 29 governates.

“Really I would like to see a democracy in my country soon,” said Eldessouky. “This is what I hope, democracy, peace, a real democracy. I want to get an end for all this situation because I really care a lot about the innocent people killed over there and I don’t need more wounds, no more blood.”