MARLA: And -- and how were you able to contact the hospital before the telephone to tell them that you were sending a medevac?
BERTHA: They made the medevac from the hospital.
MARLA: Oh, okay.
BERTHA: And we called them. I would be calling on the single-sideband radio, and sometimes the hospital doesn't hear me. Sometimes Kotzebue hospital hear me. Sometimes Fort Yukon clinic hears me. So they relay and they said the plane is coming to pick up so and so.
And they usually take them to Tanana. And sometimes I escort people to Tanana or Fairbanks, too. Sometimes scary flight because it's really bad weather and we need to get that person in. But it didn't happen too often because most -- most accidents and illnesses we started treating them here.
And it was really hard to tell, you know, we have to watch for meningitis in the babies. And I had one patient with meningitis, she was -- he must have been 8 or 9 months old, and I started treating him as soon as I find out something was terribly wrong with him. And I started -- I can't get the doctor.
Then finally I got the doctor, and he said that was good, continue. And then I called the doctor back again and told him he wasn't responding very well, and he was lethargic like, and so they sent a medevac plane for him.
MARLA: How were you treating him?
BERTHA: I was giving him antibiotics by oral. And the doctor said if I didn't start him that early, he might have had a lot of damage to -- to his brain or something because it was really dangerous. But he came out all right.
BERTHA: Good thing we had only one here. We had one more but he was already around Fairbanks, and they didn't treat him and he died. Didn't treat him soon enough.
MARLA: What -- it sounds like you had lots of scary experiences. What was one of -- one of the most memorable ones?
BERTHA: Gunshot wound in the head. Self-inflicted. Yeah.
And another one was stab wound in the stomach. And I know he was having internal bleeding, and the plane, small plane just happened to land, we just grabbed it and he took us to Tanana. That's when we fly through a lot of clouds and scary flight.
So when we get to Tanana, they meet us and they ask me what I think might be wrong with him, and I said I think he's having internal bleeding, but I had to come back in that small plane again.
So from Tanana, they just sent him to Fairbanks, and they did surgery that night and he's -- he's -- he's been well since then.
MARLA: And then what was the most rewarding part about being a health aide?
BERTHA: When we deliver healthy babies. The most rewarding part.
When -- when you're a health aide, you forgot to be afraid. And when you're trying to save a life, you forgot to be afraid. It's all done, the next day you just think about it, and get a little bit shaky after everything is over.
And one of the best things they taught us was how to put -- they called it super tongue splint and broken bones. It was one of the best ones they ever taught us because then we could -- it was -- we think somebody had a fractured leg or arm, and we put a -- put that super tongue splint on it. And it's like plaster but it's removable. And we put it on with ace bandages. And it feels better.
And it's warm, too, because you soak the -- soak the stuff in kind of warm water before you put it on. I was -- I felt really good after we started having that. And then set up IV and sent them on the mail plane or a regular flight most of the time. Sometimes I have to do a medevac.