rambling4

Meet Amy Wilson ...

Meet Amy Wilson …

“We filled our government car, a 1949 Chevrolet, with supplies until the doors would barely close. Everything had to be in its exact place or we couldn’t have closed them at all. We checked over everything: shovel, axe, towing rope, extra gas and oil, spare fan belt, car tools, two sleeping bags, Coleman lamp and stove, two medical bags, one small suitcase each, and most important of all, toxoid.”

The car, later dubbed by highway people, “the mercy car,” was driven by registered nurses Amy Wilson and Aileen Bond, Alaska Highway Nurses, Department of National Health and Welfare, reporting to the Regional Superintendent of Indian Health Services, Edmonton, as they began Operation Toxoid in February 1949.

Their heroic road journey was initiated several weeks earlier with a call for help to her Whitehorse office from Hudson Hope, 1,450 kilometres south. She caught the midnight flight, a five- or six-hour journey, to Fort St. John. She drove to Dawson Creek for additional medicine, drove 240 kilometres farther north to the Sikanni Chief area, then a 40-kilometre sleigh ride to a First Nation village where their worst fears were confirmed – it was diphtheria.

Back to Whitehorse, preparation, planning and Operation Toxoid began. Their assignment: the immediate immunization of everyone along the Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek to at least as far as Whitehorse.

Getting there was a major part of the operation, as was the medicine itself. “The toxoid,” she tells us, “was the bane of our existence during the next few weeks. It mustn’t get too hot or it would lose its potency. It mustn’t get too cold or the fragile glass containers would break. We cared for that box as though it contained a premature baby.”

But she qualified those concerns: “Oh, that life-giving toxin!” she noted, “It seems so wonderful to us who have been trained in its use, but how much more wonderful must it seem to someone who has never heard of it.”

The mettle of these women is illustrated in her comments about their car, which they loved. Shovelling and pushing were common, and when the gas line froze, “we unhooked it at the engine head, then with a catheter attached to a syringe, squirted ether into it. That dissolved the ice and we were on our way.”

“By the middle of March,” she wrote in her book No Man Stands Alone, everyone along the highway between Dawson Creek and Whitehorse had been protected against diphtheria.”

Donald R. McLaren, bush pilot, Indian-Eskimo Association of Canada, wrote in the flyleaf of her book: “No Man Stands Alone is a fascinating story. It has a true title, for no man can stand alone in the north for long. In the Cree language Muskeekee Iskwao mitone sakehikoowisew (“the district nurse is greatly beloved”). She deserves the praise and gratitude of the whole nation.”

The whole nation didn’t recognize her, but her peers did, and quickly. “Early in April 1950,” she wrote, “Miss Bond and I were called to Victoria to attend a convention of Public Health Workers. There we were each presented with a specially struck medal and a Citation. The writing on both read “For Distinguished Service.”

“We felt proud but very humble, for we knew that equally deserving of those honours were the men who, with no thought of self, had provided us with transportation and shelter – who had fully lived up to the interpretation of ‘Men of the North.’ We never stood alone.”

There’s a lot of fuss made constantly, to the point of tiresome, of “celebrities” in our society. They’re touted as if they are the be all, and end all, the very foundation of our society. In my reality they’re more like the chrome on our car, a bit of flash, but it doesn’t help it perform any better.

It’s people with work ethics and dedication matching Amy Wilson and Aileen Bond who are our true foundations and keep our society performing and running smoothly. Her thoughts this week, and in last week’s column, are indicative she and Aileen Bond were two true celebrities of our time.

A tip of the hat to all caregivers in all disciplines in our world. Conditions are obviously better than the good old days, but the dedication of our regular heroes keep our standards high.

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Air North president Joe Sparling said the relaxing of self-isolation rules will be good for the business, but he still expects a slow summer. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)
Air North president expects a slow summer

Air North president Joe Sparling suspects it will be a long time before things return to pre-pandemic times

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Copies of the revised 2021-22 budget documents tabled in the legislature on May 14. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Liberals introduce new budget with universal dental and safe supply funding

The new items were added to secure the support of the NDP.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Most Read