Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Project Jukebox Survey

Help us redesign the Project Jukebox website by taking a very short survey!

Marge Adams, Part 3
Marge Adams

This is the continuation of an interview with Marge Adams on May 28, 2006 by Karen Brewster at Marge's home in Yakutat, Alaska. In this third part of a three part interview, Marge talks about the formation of the Southeast Alaska Health Board and the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), why she became a health aid, and the dedication of all the health aides she worked with. Marge also talks about difficulties she had as the health aid coordinator for SEARHC, including communication with doctors, lack of funds for ordering supplies and equipment, and dealing with a variety of rules and regulations. Marge also discusses the joys of being a health aide, delivering her first baby, helping with emergencies, the challenges of balancing work with raising her own family, and the lack of racism she felt as a Native person working in a mostly non-Native atmosphere. Finally, she offers some advice for young people who might be considering a career as a health aide.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2004-17-30_PT.3

Project: Community Health Aide Program Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: May 28, 2006
Narrator(s): Marge Adams
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, University of Alaska Health Programs
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
Slideshow
There is no slideshow for this person.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.

Sections

Southeast Alaska Health Board and Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) formation and board membership.

Getting to know other health aides in the region and the dedication of people who were long-term health aides.

How her personal loss of a child inspired her decision to become a health aide, and how she supported other parents.

Difficulties she had working as the health aide coordinator for the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC).

Her struggles to purchase program medical supplies and cope with internal political problems.

Communication problems and an incident when she thought they were trying to fire her.

Continued problems she had working at the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

Learning about the health aide program budget after having struggled to purchase new equipment and supplies.

Her retirement, caring for her ill sister, and getting involved with her community.

The difficulties of balancing the pressures and demands of work with raising a family.

The first baby she delivered.

The types of communication and transportation systems available for helping patients, and treating non-Native patients despite Indian Health Service rules against it.

Dealing with emergencies, the role of health aides in the process, and criticism of emergency training given to health aides.

Taking care of patients until they could be transported to a hospital, and never losing a patient.

Relationship between doctors and health aides, and getting assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard station in Yakutat.

The lack of racism she felt as a health aide working in a mostly non-Native atmosphere, and the high level of satisfaction she got from the job.

Being a health aide within her own community, and alcoholism as the most difficult problem she faced.

Considerations for helping to keep health aides on the job, and differences between early health aides and current ones.

Yakutat Health Council accomplishments, and how much she enjoyed being a health aide.

Advice for anyone thinking about becoming a health aide today.

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.

Transcript

KAREN: When did you get off the SEARHC board? What year was that?

 MARGE: '76. 

KAREN: No, you were just talking about the formation -- so SEARHC started in '75 about?

 MARGE: Yeah, somewhere in that neighborhood. But they didn't have our contract anyway. City had that contract. We decided to give it to the city.

 KAREN: Right, so you were at the SEARHC board for about a year?

 MARGE: SEARHC board itself, yes.

 KAREN: You said now there's like 19 board members. When you were on it how many people where there? Do you remember?

 MARGE: I can just see Frank O. sitting up there. Ethel, Mary Jones and then Trudy, Alicia, Alma Cook. I can't remember, who was from Kake? Oh, I know she died. And I can't remember her name.

 KAREN: Your son mentioned that there's pictures of all of you as the founding members up at the hospital or something. Is that what he was saying?

 MARGE: Ahh, they may have that. 

KAREN: Or maybe that was for the Southeast Health Board? 

MARGE: Health Board.

 KAREN: Oh.

 MARGE: But, you know, those were basically the same ones. No, the health aides had to get off --

 KAREN: Oh, okay. 

MARGE: -- because that's the first contract they got. And then I realized I didn't have to get off. They didn't have my contract so, you know, and I didn't realize that at the time. I could have stayed right on but I backed out because the other health aides had to back off. You know, here talking to the health aides, you're talking to one. We all did things, all together.

KAREN: Now in the 80's when you went to work for SEARHC in Sitka as the coordinator, what was that like?

 MARGE: It was kind of great, there was a couple left over yet. I didn't know the health aides in say Kake. Louise Kadake that was the health aide that died. Yeah, she was representing --

 KAREN: Kake?

 MARGE: Kake. Yeah, I didn't know who the Aceveda lady was. I got to know Edna Charley pretty good. But then, of course, there was still Alicia Roberts, she was still hanging in there, it was amazing to watch her in action.

 KAREN: And where was she from?

 MARGE: Craig.

 KAREN: Craig, okay. 

MARGE: And she'd take her medicine bottle -- she's got glasses on and she'd take a magnifying glass and look, make sure it was the right medicines. But she wouldn't give that -- they had a hard time trying to figure a way to get her to retire. 

It's hard to do. And a lot of it is because grandparents end up with their grandchildren and they need the money to keep things going. So, you know, she couldn't just give up the health aide program or job because she needed that money.

 KAREN: Well, it seems like a lot of the early health aides couldn't give it up for other reasons. I mean, they were there for 30 years. That seemed normal. 

MARGE: I know, yeah. That was the normal thing. Yeah. You had to be a dedicated person in order to be a health aide for nothing. It's really not for monetary value. There was no monetary value, but it wasn't for nothing, it was helping your people. And I knew that I was supposed to be the educated one, and, yeah, and that was what I was supposed to be doing because I was educated. I could go out and learn to do other things and I spoke English and, yeah, I did the whole bit.

KAREN: So, are you happy that you were a health aide and have that part --?

 MARGE: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. After I lost my baby, I thought that was the most horrible experience in my whole life. And I realized I'm not the only one that feels that way. Other women when their babies get sick, get just as scared as I did. 

And, you know, my baby that I lost wasn't the only one that got sick. My other kids did too. And staying up all night with them, you know, is scary in itself. 

So, when I became a health aide that was the first thing I'd do when they'd call me for a baby that was sick. I stayed there with the mother 'cause I knew what she was feeling. I knew what she felt, you know, being so scared and not having somebody to ask a question of or if that's the right thing to do. Because, you know, you don't know anything about it.

 So, it's best just to stay there and do what needs to be done and alleviate some of the scariness from the parents.


KAREN: So when did you end up retiring?

 MARGE: In '89. I was SEARHC's health aide coordinator but, you know, they didn't allow me to do much of anything. I told my supervisor to ask Lee Schmidt, you know, he kept all the money, from all the budgets.

 KAREN: He was the doctor in charge at the time? 

MARGE: And I said: “You know Mark, I feel like I'm going up to Lee Schmidt and pulling on his sleeve or his jacket and saying, Daddy can I have some money.” You know, I couldn't get the health aides what they needed. Because you couldn't get past Lee Schmidt. You couldn't convince him. And he didn't tell me. I was looking at a brochure or catalog that had --

 KAREN: Otoscopes? No.

 MARGE: Otoscope --

 KAREN: Otoscope.

 MARGE: -- that came out with a little piece of paper that told you what you were looking at. And I thought: “Perfect. Just what the health aides need.” Because doctors tend to not believe you. 

And it's our kids that pay for it. If that doctor doesn't believe what you're seeing, what you're telling him you're seeing and that kid doesn't get treated, you know, that's not right.

 So, I thought: “Wow. These would be great.” And I needed $10,000 to get this. And I knew -- I didn't realize how much money my program had in it. And I went down and told Lee Schmidt, I says: “You know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna write to Haines Klukwan, Inc. to see if they can give me $10,000 for the health aides.”

 And he gave me this sick grin. But he didn't say anything. And I said: “I guess that means yes, or does it mean no that I can't do that.” And he just, you know, he just -- like he didn't know what to say. He didn't tell me that he let one of his people get kayaks to ride around in from that corporation and those kayaks cost an arm and a leg. He just got them, they were all piled up.

 Yeah, those are the types of things that he did.

MARGE: You know, it was just a big hassle. Constantly, trying to find something to do that wouldn't cost so much money and Lee Schmidt would okay. 

There was something really drastic going on. My boss came down, Mark came down and he asked me. He says: “Marge we're going for a little ride on the boat, you know that boat.” And he said: “Would you like to come along?” And I said: “No.” I said, “I've got more to do than go riding around in a boat.” And he says: “Oh, okay.” So, he left.

 And then about a week later here he comes again. He says: “Marge, are you sure you don't wanna go with us? We're gonna go on that boat up around the islands.” I said: “Why in the world --” I said: “Look at this. I'm the only one working on this health aide program and look at the problems we're having in the villages. You know, I can't get Lee Schmidt to okay any of this stuff.” 

And I said: "But I see Kurt Ledford getting all kinds of stuff for his CHRs. And here, I'm the one that had to go up and represent the CHRs and not him. And I said: “No, I haven't got -- I've got to figure out, I've got to stop and sit down and figure out how I'm gonna get what I need for those health aides.”


MARGE: I had no idea all these stuff was going on but Lee Schmidt called me into his office. Now they had already gotten rid of Jim Bigtoe or whatever his name was and Frank O. Williams and Phil Moreno and I'm the last Native sitting in that place. And I got called down to his office. 

And I come walking in there and there's the lady I supervise. She comes over when she feels like it -- she comes over from Juneau and here's Mark sitting there and here's Lee Schmidt sitting at his desk. And I looked around and thought: “What is this?”

 And Lee Schmidt tells me: “Sit down, if I wanted to.” And I looked at him and looked at Fran and I sat down very quietly and I was looking at him and what they were going to do is, what they did was, spend a lot of time trying to figure out all the things that I should've been doing or did wrong or -- whatever I did they had it all written down to tell me that I had to go.

 And I came unglued, which is something those guys never did. And if I could have kicked Lee Schmidt -- he was sitting in front of a window like this and up second floor or third floor, if I could have kicked him out that window I would have. 

You know, this is a guy that doesn't really talk, never tells you what he is thinking or what he'd like to see done. You know, I'm used to supervisors that come in, talk and say, you know, this is something we can do, what part can you do, and let's go with it. But Lee Schmidt is not a talker.

KAREN: So, did you get fired or you resigned?

 MARGE: He was -- I started yelling and I started screaming and, of course, when I get mad and frustrated like that, 'cause I know I can't kick him out the window and I can't slam him, I start crying. And then watch out, when I start crying then just get out of my way.

 And I went down to my office and I was still yelling at Mark. And then the phone rang when I got down to my office and Mark was there and I picked up the phone and said: “YEAH?” 

And was Ethel, Ethel Lund, who was President of SEARHC. And she said: ‘Marge?” I said: “Oh, Hi Ethel.”

 And that's all Mark had to hear. He went running out of my office and he came running back with an agenda. Here the Board was having a meeting and I was supposed to give a report on the health aide program. 

I know what they were going to do, that I wasn't smart enough to know how to give a report so they were sending this Fran. She wanted to go, so they were gonna send her instead to take my place and say that I didn't know how to give the report and that's why Fran was there.

 And she said: “Marge,” she said “the Board just found out you weren't gonna go and they talked to me to see if I could talk you into going to this.” I said: “I had no idea Ethel. I had no idea.” I said: “You want me to do anything, you guys are the bosses. Sure I'll go.” I said: “When Mark asked me, he said it was just a pleasure ride. And I didn't wanna go on no pleasure ride.”

Yeah, and Mark came running in with that agenda that I was supposed to make a report to the Board on the health aide program.

MARGE: I know Lee Schmidt was afraid because I needed a lot of things and I wasn't getting any money. And that's what I would have said too. I had no problem with that. I would have said: “Hey, I feel like I'm not doing anything 'cause I don't have any money to do anything with.”

 KAREN: So, did you get the money? What happened?

 MARGE: I go t- -I went to a staff meeting and I said: “I'm working in the blind here. I've never been in an organization where I didn't have my budget right here in front of me, so I could know what can I spend, what was the money put aside for, you know, who made up this budget, who made up the proposal for the year. I have no idea.” 

I said: “I know I can't go spending the money without knowing what the money was there for. Because then I'd have a hard time explaining to IHS why I spent the money someplace else.”

 KAREN: Right.

 MARGE: Next thing I knew there was the budget sitting in front of me. And I had over a million dollars in my budget.

 KAREN: Wow.

 MARGE: And I thought: “Why am I begging?” $10,000 would have been a drop in the bucket for the otoscopes for those health aides. You know, and so that Kurt Ledford was yelling for locked cabinets for his CHRs and he got to go down and talk really nice to Lee Schmidt and I'm not one of those that will go pussy-footing or begging. I will not beg.

KAREN: So you retired in 1989 after all of this? 

MARGE: Yep. Something happened. I woke up -- I come home from work and I sit down to watch TV and think about what happened at work and what I should be doing next and all this other good stuff and next thing I know I'd be walking the floors. I stop and I think: “What am I doing?” So, I go sit down again, I did that so many times. And finally, I thought: “Oh, my God something's gonna happen to one of my kids.”

 Next morning I went to work and I put in my resignation, I said: “If anything is gonna happen to one of my kids, I want to be at home.” 

So, I came home and what do I find? I find my sister here dying of lung cancer. And I took her out of here, and took her to Anchorage, that Indian Health Service. That Dr. Westley should have been shot at dawn. He told her just go home and die, there was nothing he could do. 

But he went ahead and did surgery on her lungs without finding out why her lungs were collapsing.

 KAREN: So, you helped take care of her? 

MARGE: I had to take care of her, yeah. Somebody had to take care of her. So, I did. I stayed up there in Anchorage and took care of her until she died. This was when? October? October of '89. 

KAREN: And then when did you move back to Yakutat? 

MARGE: After she died. When she died that was the end of December, just before Christmas, I guess. She died the 16th of December, brought her home for funeral and I stayed. I never went back.

 KAREN: Have you continued to be involved with health related things?

 MARGE: In lots of ways. I was on the board for YTT -- 

KAREN: The Yakutat Tribe? 

MARGE: The Yakutat Tlingit Tribe and then I took it over for a short time when the president quit. And then a couple of years ago when YTT took it over, they invited me to commence and be the advisory committee for the health for the community. So, yeah, but, you know, they start things and they don't follow through.

KAREN: So how did you do all this health aide and PA and the work in Anchorage, how did you do that and raise your six children? And go away for training.

 MARGE: Go away for training, yeah. My sister helped me out because, you know, she was the one with the bright idea and say: “You should be the health aide, you're the one that needs the health aide the most.” So, yeah. 

KAREN: So, when you went out for training she helped take care of your kids? MARGE: Yeah, she helped take care of the kids and yeah be gone for two weeks at a time, a month at a time.

 KAREN: And then when you went to New Mexico did you take your kids with you?

 MARGE: Oh, yeah. The two younger ones. The rest of them were all grown up and on their own. But one was in high school and the other one in 8th grade.

 KAREN: And when was your husband around or he wasn't in the picture?

 MARGE: He came down later. My youngest one had a hard time with going to new places, meeting new people. He was always leery of that.

 KAREN: And how old were those kids when you went to New Mexico.

 MARGE: Irving was what 14, 15 somewhere around that neighborhood. So, Dwayne must have been 12 or 13. But he still didn't like going new places. And so, he stayed behind with his dad. He wouldn't come with me. But the older one did. So, the two of us went down. And then later after fishing, George came down with my younger one. And he fell in love with New Mexico. My husband did too. He didn't want to come back. Not me, I wanted to be back by the water.

 KAREN: So was your husband supportive of you doing all this work?

 MARGE: No, no, he didn't understand it in general. It's just something that had to be done and that's all there was to it. It's just something that had to be done.


KAREN: Do you remember the first baby you delivered?

 MARGE: Uh-hum (affirmative).

 KAREN: Can you tell me about it?

 MARGE: Yeah, she became president of Kwan. Yakutat Kwan.

 KAREN: Was it scary delivering a baby? What was that like?

 MARGE: I don't know, you know, that was something else that had to be done. I went up there, got my stuff together and the baby was born ok but the afterbirth wouldn't come out. And I was talking to the doctor and I told him, I said: “I've been waiting for a long time for the afterbirth and it still hasn't shown up.” 

And he said: “Okay.” He said: “Now put the phone down, don't put it back in the cradle, put it down someplace. And you do what I told you to.” And he says: “After you do what I told you to do, then you come back and let me know how it worked.”

 So, I did exactly what he told me to do and I come running back to the phone and I said: “Doctor, doctor, it worked like a charm!”

 KAREN: So, what did he tell you to do? 

MARGE: He told me to get the top part of her tummy and press hard and push out. And popped right out, slipped right out. No problem.

 Yeah, I was beginning to worry, you know. I was worried that it might come out in pieces or something, which would have been -- I would have had to ship her out. But yeah, it worked like a charm, no problems.

That doctor wanted to meet me. So, when I went down they said: “Marge Adams could you sit right here for a moment please? That doctor wants to meet you.”


KAREN: So, all the time you were a health aide you had telephone contact with the doctors?

 MARGE: We were lucky, both of us were. RCA was here. 

KAREN: RCA? 

MARGE: That's the phone company, they had the White Alice thing.

 KAREN: Okay, yeah.

 MARGE: And, you know, not that many lines come in to Yakutat or going out and I'd just get the operator and tell them: “Hey, I've got an emergency.” And they'd clear it for me to get through to the doctor instantly. 

Or Alaska Airlines was also very good. If I had patient that had to get out but I'm a little late or its -- you know, they'd wait.

 KAREN: Oh, that's good.

 MARGE: Yeah, they'd wait and let me get the patient on. 

KAREN: Did you ever have a time where you had an emergency and you couldn't reach the doctor for help and you had to do it on your own? 

MARGE: No, I had Juneau, Anchorage and Mt. Edgecumbe. I can call anyone. I was lucky, I was lucky again. I wasn't supposed to take care of non-Natives.

 KAREN: Oh.

 MARGE: That was a no-no, because this is Indian Health Service now. But what are you gonna do in a little town like this?

 KAREN: Yeah, what are they supposed to do? 

MARGE: So, if you lived here and lived here for years I'd no problem coming to take care of you. But if you're an itinerant, no you'll have to leave, you'll have to get on a plane and get seen, taken care of whatever.
 But yeah, I took care of patients that lived here for ever and on. I didn't care what color you were, pink, green, yellow or blue.


KAREN: Where there some, any big emergencies you remember? You mentioned that one about the car wreck and the dead body, but were there other big kind of emergencies you had to deal with?

 MARGE: Oh, yeah. All different kinds. That was the other thing we had problem with the health aide program. I was trying to tell them that we shouldn't be in the emergency hospitals. That's not where we belong. 
We're not the ones that's gonna decide whether a patient has to be seen by a nurse or surgeon or who has got to be seen by. That's none of our business. Our business is to make sure we can stabilize them and get them to the doctors. 

But they said we couldn't get on the ambulance. That's where we should have been on that ambulance.

 KAREN: For your training, you mean? 

MARGE: For our training, it should have been in that ambulance. Because that's what they do, they stabilize the patient and get them ready for the doctors in the emergency room. And then the emergency room doctors decide who you need.

 But I worked in Providence Hospital, I couldn't believe it. There was three kids that came in and they had a car accident in a truck, I guess. Of course, seat belts weren't law then. And they smashed themselves into that windshield and dashboard and everything else. They were a mess, complete mess. 

And one neurosurgeon, this huge doctor, he was looking at this kid and he said: “Hey.” He said: “You realize your face looks like a burger?” He used the ‘F' word on him. I couldn't believe that. I was shocked that a doctor would even talk that way. And what about the poor patient. It scared the daylights out of him. What a terrible thing to say. But, you know, he was a neurosurgeon and he was the only one so, I guess, he could say whatever he wanted to say. 

But, yeah, that wasn't our thing. You know, the best we could do was keep track of their blood pressure and, you know -- And learn to use that NG tube, yeah. I learned that, boy, from him, that doctor. The guy started vomiting and the doctor looked at him and he reached down and grabbed the NG tube and stuck it in his nose.

KAREN: So were there cases here that happened that you helped keep the people alive? 

MARGE: Oh, yeah, you had to keep all the patients alive to get them to the hospital. And we never lost a patient. Never lost a patient, that was great.

 Ahh, one. An elderly woman. And I knew she was in trouble. I hated it when Lee Schmidt was on call. 'Cause like I said, he wasn't a talker. And I tried to tell him this is an elderly woman and I said: “Doctor, the least I can say is that she's got a cold but more than --” I said: “I know she's having a hard time breathing, we may be talking pneumonia here.” I said: “But she is in a position where I can't get to listen really well to her lungs.” And I said: “She doesn't wanna move.” And he said: “Oh, yeah. Okay.” So he had me give her medicine. She died.

 No, that was two. There was a patient that had been drinking for so long, he had been in the Service and he had had, I don't know, so many surgeries because he got slammed between two drums.

 KAREN: Oh, when he was in the Service? 

MARGE: Yeah, and so they did surgery after surgery after surgery and he came here. But I don't think that was his problem. I think he had been drinking for so long. I think his kidney shut down and he was huge, just everything was huge --

 KAREN: Swollen?

 MARGE: Just swollen. Full of fluid. And what does Lee Schmidt tell me to do. He tells me to give him water pills. And I said, I knew he was already so full of fluid and if he was gonna go to the bathroom he would have. Even on himself if he had to. But he evidently can't go and that's the reason he's so full of fluid. But he's the doctor and that's what he told me to do and that's what I did. Of course, got him to the hospital and he got there and died.

KAREN: So how do you feel it worked between health aides and doctors, the relationship and --

 MARGE: The relationship with our own doctor was spectacular.

 KAREN: So, you had one doctor in Edgecumbe who was representative for here? 

MARGE: Just Yakutat's doctor. Except when they were on call. And on other times Dr. Russler or some of the others would say: “Yeah, Marge, I guess you can call me at home.”

 KAREN: So who was the doctor who was the one for Yakutat, what was his name?

 MARGE: They were several. You know, every so often they --

 KAREN: -- they changed, yeah.

 MARGE: Yeah. So, yeah, there were several.

 KAREN: So you think the doctors -- if you called the doctor and said this isn't what I think is wrong with the patient, do you feel that they believed you? And trusted you?

 MARGE: They trusted us. To the point where they'd say: “When Yakutat calls, you better believe it's an emergency. So, stand on alert.” 

So, when Yakutat -- the nurses down in Edgecumbe used to -- Dr. Gove -- God he was good looking, he was so good looking. And he wouldn't smile or talk to anybody in Mt. Edgecumbe. But they said: “Boy as soon as Yakutat calls, he's all smiles and he starts talking.” And yeah, he was great.

 KAREN: So you feel like you could say: “This is what I think it is,” and get them to --

 MARGE: I had a patient -- alcoholism. He wasn't a Native but he was a veteran, so I can call for him. In fact, I did call the vets for him and I had him going on the plane before the vets even got back to me. Well, that plane was gone already by time the vets got around to talking to me. I didn't have time for them. You know, this guy was in DTs, he was in sad shape. And I didn't have time and so he went out on that plane. And they called me and I said: “You're too late.” I said: “That guy is on his way.” And there was perfect silence on the other end. I didn't care, you know, get that guy out.

 Yeah, he -- I know started to tell you something about why --

 KAREN: That you felt like you could you know --

 MARGE: Exactly.

 KAREN: -- emphasize with the doctor, you know, I'm right, you have to believe me.

 MARGE: Exactly. I lost a patient here. And she had been on a long drunk and she got into DTs. And that was my first case. I'd never seeing such a thing before in my life and I was in shock. I had no idea what alcohol can do to you, none.

 KAREN: And your training didn't teach you anything?

 MARGE: No, they didn't teach us anything about DTs. And I saw this and the doctor ordered medicine that I didn't have and he said: “Well, that's ok.” He said: “I'm gonna be sending you up some medicine and by the time it gets there in two or three days, she's gonna really need it.” 

She didn't make it past that night. And I called the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard was always helpful to me too. I told them: “I found one pill that I think he asked for.” I said: “Could you do me a favor? If I tell you what this pill was, if you have any ideas about what other pills. This is my first time so I don't know that much about pills and which ones work alike.” And I figured he would.

 So he said: “Oh yeah.” He says: “Okay, I'll be down. I'll bring you the --” 

KAREN: There is a Coast Guard here in Yakutat?

 MARGE: Coast Guard station. Had a Coast Guard station and they had a Coast Guard medic. And he's the guy I'm talking to. And he brought me down some medicine that he had. It's a good thing 'cause she was cramping so bad and her legs would just go under her. It was nasty.

KAREN: Before you said a little bit about, you know, when you first started working at SEARHC there weren't many Native people. In all this as a health aide and coordinator did you experience racism?

 MARGE: Only with the Mayor, I think. He kept thinking every PA that came along wasn't Native so --

 KAREN: But besides, in all the other work you don't --

 MARGE: I didn't -- I thought, I looked around at the doctors and the nurses and thought, they must think we can do it.

 KAREN: Because it's a pretty unique program, here with --

 MARGE: Sure.

 KAREN: -- the local Native people being providers and so many non-Natives are trained as doctors and nurses and I didn't know how they accepted the health aides. 

MARGE: That's why I'm looking around at them and thinking, well they must be pretty well rounded, you know. 'Cause ordinarily people don't think we know very much and can't do very much but, of course, it's our own people they're working on so they're not gonna care anyway. The only one I ever run into was the pharmacist that decided that maybe I couldn't -- I wouldn't know what the medicines were for. 

KAREN: So, were there ever times you wanted to quit doing this work?

 MARGE: I never ever thought about it. Even when everybody was up on the Pipeline, all my kids were up there. Except my two younger ones. But my daughter took them up there, not to the Pipeline but where --? Not Valdez. It's up by Fairbanks there some place. Tok?

 KAREN: Tok, yeah. 

MARGE: Somewhere around up there. Yeah, she took the two younger ones up there and I was home alone. And my nephew was the coordinator for the Native people going up. And he called down and he said: “What are you doing down there?” And if I had known what was gonna be happening, I would have gone ahead and said: “Okay, okay. Go find me a job. I'll go up there and start working.”

 KAREN: So what was it about being a health aide and working in the health field that was good, that you liked about it? What kept you doing it?

 MARGE: It was -- you could see the results of what you were doing and people were satisfied. They were glad that you could do it and they were so happy that somebody was able to do it. 

Especially, the older people, you know. They were so glad that there was somebody they could turn to and talk to and not have to deal with the doctor and all these nurses asking them so many different questions that get's them all confused.

 Yeah, it was a satisfying job. I loved every minute of it. Emergencies, the whole works, I loved every minute of it. It was good. Even when I wasn't getting paid it was, you know, satisfaction of getting a job done. 

KAREN: What was the hardest part?

 MARGE: I don't know. Leaving my kids, maybe. Yeah, leaving my kids a few times a year.

 KAREN: Do you miss it?

 MARGE: I missed it. I really did. I really missed it. And I wished I could have gone back to it. My mind is willing, it's my body that won't allow me to do that. Yeah, my mind is still pretty clear. I can think of doing things and whatever else but -- I still got ideas, come pouring out of my head with projects that we could be doing. Like I said, you know, that theater one is probably one I'd have been interested in doing. And that's for the sake of the community too, in the winter time, you know, there's nothing going on.

 KAREN: Right.

 MARGE: There's nothing.

KAREN: The other question I ask people, what it's like being a health aide in a community that you're from and taking care of your own relatives and friends and how do you handle that? 

MARGE: The only one I had a problem with was my kids, giving them shots. I let Sugar do that. So, it wasn't hard.

 KAREN: It wasn't hard.

 MARGE: I let Sugar take care of that.

 KAREN: 'Cause I can think in some communities, that maybe -- I think maybe it's different in different communities.

 MARGE: Yeah, yeah, death in the community because you're so close. It's -- You know, that elderly woman, you know, she took care of me too when I was a little kid after my mom died. 

And then the alcoholism. Probably the biggest one I had and the hardest one because I didn't understand it. I didn't understand. And nobody at the training program could tell me.

 KAREN: It was an alcohol case?

 MARGE: No, what we're dealing with. Why are we dealing with this? You know if somebody has pneumonia, you give them shots and you take care of them and they get over it. And that can't be for alcoholism. 

And what can you do to help? There's nothing you can do. You can't help them, you can't make them stop, you can't do anything. That was the hard part. That one I had a hard time with. I couldn't fully understand what was that all about and why it was the way it was.

It took a lot maybe more and more from my own experiences and stuff rather than what I got from training what alcoholism was about. But that was the hardest of all of them, all of this stuff that had happened, even to cancer and, you know, I had cancer patients and even suicides and, you know, I had all different kinds of things but none of them was as bad or as hard as alcoholism because I couldn't understand it, I just -- seems like there was something you're supposed to push press, say and that would stop it.

 Because some of the people look at you and you can see all their hurt and everything in their eyes and there was nothing you could do about it. So, yeah, especially when it's your own people and you can't stop it. Yeah, that was the hardest.

KAREN: When you were the coordinator both in Anchorage and down here, did you see changes in health aides staying on the job, you know, was it recidivism, retention? Whatever is that --?

 MARGE: Yeah, I know what you mean.

 KAREN: You know what I mean?

 MARGE: Uh-hum (affirmative). Yeah.

 KAREN: And how do you deal with that? From what I've heard people say now that with this generation of health aides it's harder to keep people staying on the job. I mean your generation, a lot of those people were there for 30 years.

 MARGE: Yeah. When they started paying, they'd keep looking at other places where had better pay, you know, that's why they're going -- or it's too restrictive or if they drinking themselves, you know, and they're on call, you know.

 KAREN: Were there things that you tried to implement to help keep health aides on the job?

 MARGE: I didn't do that. People were there already and nobody quit while I was there. 

KAREN: Okay.

 MARGE: Nobody quit. Yeah, they were there, so they must have been there for a while. I know Alicia was there forever. And so was Alma Cook from Hydaberg, she was there.

I took them to Anchorage for one last time for the Health Aide Symposium or whatever they had in Anchorage that we had every so often. And I told Lee, I says: “I'm gonna take the old ones.” I says: “Probably their last time ever going up there as health aides.” 

So, I did, I took them up and Alma Cook, always limping, and we were at bingo that night. And I was sitting in the smoking section, she was way up front in the non smoking section. And I saw her flying down that -- she forgot about her hip but she won some big money and she was so excited, she wanted to tell me about it.

KAREN: So, what are you most proud of in your career? MARGE: Just everything in general that we did. You know, this was -- nobody had ever thought about doing, it was unheard of. You know, when I got here, like I said, the garbage was going all the way down to the beach. That's gone now because of the health council and what we did. We erased impetigo. There was no more impetigo in our village. We got a new clinic. 

We just, you know, did a lot of things. I remember an old man coming and saying: “Anytime you have something you're going to do, you tell me. I can't work with you. I can't help you no more, but I can give you money to help. I know all the work you're doing, it helps us. So, I want to put my share in there too.” 

You know, that was, by itself if that was the only thing that anybody ever said or if that was the only thing that ever happened as a health aide that would have been great. But it wasn't, you know, it just went on and on and on. Yeah, we just enjoyed being a health aide. I enjoyed being a health aide, I really did enjoy that.

KAREN: What kind of advice would you give to this young generation who might want to become health aides? 

MARGE: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know what was in me or in Sugar that -- I don't know if that part is gone that wanting to do something, not for the money, but wanting to do something for the people in your community. I think that part's gone, I don't know.

 These people were doing it for a reason, all the ones that stayed there 20, 30 years. And it was to help their people in their community. And that part is gone. Nobody wants to help people in the community anymore.
 Well, I suppose that everybody is getting educated now. Maybe that's why you don't have that. I don't know. I don't know what it is that would keep any young person, except for a job.

 KAREN: Would you encourage them to become health aides? It's a worthwhile job?

 MARGE: It's a worthwhile job, there's no two ways about it. But they're gonna have to like it. They're gonna have to like knowing about people, knowing what happened and still keeping their mouth shut about it. It's just not easy to do in any little village, you know. You just can't talk about it, even though it's on your mind, you know what you went through, what happened, and you know people are asking questions and you still can't say anything about it and you'd like to.

 So, for even that reason it takes a certain kind of people that will do that. And to see the blood, you know, whatever, VD, you have to see that, you know, and it's not pretty, it's not nice.

 And you have to be dedicated enough to say: “Okay. This is what man goes through. This is just another one of the things that man goes through.” You have to be dedicated.

 KAREN: Well, those are all my questions. I don't know if you feel like we covered everything or you have anything else you wanna talk about? 

MARGE: I think that's basically it. We've been at it for how many hours?

 KAREN: I know, we can go on for days.

 MARGE: Yes, I could.

 KAREN: I think I'll give you a little bit of a rest. How does that sound?

 MARGE: Sure.

 KAREN: So, thank you.

 MARGE: Sure.