Rose Ambrose was interviewed on September 27, 2005 by Marla Statscewich in Rose's home in Huslia, Alaska. In this interview, Rose talks about her training as a community health aide, the public health nurses who came to the village, learning from other health aides and the doctors while listening to the single-side band radio, changes in medicine and diseases throughout the years and what it was like when she retired from her job in 1993.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Community Health Aide Program Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Sep 27, 2005
Narrator(s): Rose Ambrose
Interviewer(s): Marla Statscewich
Transcriber: Carol McCue
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Some background on her life.
Learning from public health nurses, other aides on the radio, and from doctors during special training in Anchorage.
Some of the other health aides from the early days of training, and what the training was like.
Her first paycheck, and what it was like being a health aide.
The emotional difficulties of being a health aide and coping with emergencies and even deaths.
How she became a health aide and some of what she learned on the job.
How some health aides did amazing things to save lives, and the stories of two emergency breech births.
The freedom of her life now that she is retired, and why she was able to stick with the job for so long in the first place.
The miracle that she and others of her generation and earlier generations survived through childhood without medicine, and her observation that many of the illnesses common today were never a problem during her childhood.
The importance of clinics in the villages and how grateful she is for the support she received in Huslia from the people and the city.
Changes in communications technology and technology in the clinic.
Words of advice for those considering a career as a health aide.
What characteristics make a good health aide.
How she feels about her career as a health aide.
Memories of being a health aide.
A few final comments about the new young health aides and how great they are.
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.
MARLA: Today is September 27th, 2005, my name is Marla Statscewich, I'm here in Huslia for the Community Health Aide Program Project Jukebox, and I have the pleasure today of talking with Rose Ambrose. So thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me. ROSE: Well, I don't know what we're going to talk about but we could talk. MARLA: Okay. Well, I'm glad that you're willing to talk with me. ROSE: Yeah. MARLA: Well, so let's start out. If you could just give me a little bit of background information, you know, where you were born, when you were born, your family, and we'll start from there and -- ROSE: All right. Way back in the old days, let's say somewhere in the twenties, already our parents, our mother and our dad was all -- already, they had their own little boat outfit inboard motor, so they move around. They were up the Koyukuk River right now. So they go downriver in the summertime and they come back in the falltime. They go fishing on the Yukon River, with fish wheel for the beautiful salmon that's running on the Yukon River. And then they come back up. They come back up early enough to get the fish, frozen fish and all that for dog feed, too. So they start moving around very, very early, our mother. George -- George Attla and Eliza Attla. And wintertime, too, they still move around. That's way back. Supposedly they have to go down Yukon River to sell their furs and get groceries. So it happened that they were going down Koyukuk, for the -- for the big time, too, 17th of March, but they must have went down a little bit early because I was born in Koyukuk March -- March 7th, 1928. So I'm -- I'm pretty old now. And then that's the way it went. Our parents, they moved back and forth all around here, up on the Koyukuk River. Sometimes we're in Hughes, but most of the time we stayed in camp and we grew up in the camp. And I don't know -- all of us bunch of kids, we didn't go to school, but somehow, I think we went to school a little bit. Not lots. In Koyukuk, that's where we -- I learned how to read. And then from there on we went back to camp and were reading. I'm reading but not that much. Well, by the time I -- I grew up already, then I went to Holy Cross Mission on Yukon River way down close to the mouth of Yukon River. Well, that's where I learned how to read and write. I learned all the small -- I mean, small things. Not big things. And that's it. But I came back up the river, and then throughout my life, here and there where we lived, like Nulato or Huslia, then I go to ABA class. Then it looked like I was doing all right. I thought I was tackling -- tackling my readings and all that. Then about 1968, that's when this whole program, Health Aide Program thing was coming about. And I got interested. I thought I wished to be health aide or something. But I really didn't know that much, especially the medical -- medical things. I didn't know. But I studied pretty hard. By the time I got into the program, I study it pretty hard. And then I work with doctors, whoever come to Huslia when they are doing a routine checkup, physical screening, all the way on, how to listen to chest, how to listen to lungs, what's abnormal, what's -- what's normal, looking in ears, what's abnormal, what's normal. The color looks. I learned that probably from the young doctors that was coming out to Huslia. And the Public Health nurses. I'll say the Public Health nurses were nice, they were very humble people. And that's where I -- I picked up pretty much of all that. And it went on and on like that. And there's so many things that's -- that happened out here, way out here in the Bush that we couldn't know what's -- what's normal, normal looks. They would say, well, look inside the ear. Right off the bat, we don't know. For sure, the doctors told us, you know, do you know if the eardrum was red color, then they tell us, you know that's a sign of infection. And how to look inside our -- inside our nose all the way up our throat, then examine the outside on the neck for lymph nodes, that's the doctors, the young doctors. They were nice. That just really put us through the education, all of us health aides. I was old by the time I was into the program, but on all the way on like --
ROSE: All right. Let's say I knew that much. That's pretty little. But it's mostly by doing (whispers) you know, the pap smear. Yeah. The young doctors, they show me how to do pelvic exam, pap -- pap smears, and what the normal looks or what ain't normal. Then I -- I caught on to that. The Public Health nurses helped me quite a bit, how to palpate the abdomen. Well, okay, that's -- that's all I knew. And I didn't know all the emergency techniques, how to look for that in the abdomen. But anyway, in Anchorage, Dr. Walter Johnson is the one that taught us how to do the abdom -- abdominal exam for emergency signs. Let's say appendicitis or else other stuff going on, they teach us how to feel the liver or the spleen or all whatever is down there inside a human -- human anatomy. MARLA: And where were you when you learned this from Dr. Johnson? ROSE: Dr. Johnson. MARLA: Yeah. Were you here in Hughes -- in Huslia? ROSE: Anchorage. MARLA: Or were you in Anchorage? ROSE: But I -- I took all the notes. I took all the notes. And I had it in my head. By the time I come back to the Bush. So pretty quick I -- somebody -- I came up with -- I came up with that over the -- over the radio, because I just came back from class and then that was my patient, and this was my patient to be shipped out or medevaced, or whatever. And I heard -- I was talking with Dr. James in Tanana, and Dr. James, he got happy because he didn't be lost, he didn't get mixed up. And I heard him talking, he was -- he was happy. I probably -- I don't know. I don't know. In our -- for our region around here, I don't know if I was the first one that reported like that, but you know, who else I learned from, I'm listening to Bertha Moses over the -- over the old state radio. That's -- that's the ones we started off with. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: Bertha Moses. She's something else. MARLA: So you would listen to her talk to the doctors in Tanana? ROSE: Yeah. MARLA: About what was going on in Allakaket? ROSE: Uh-hum (affirmative). MARLA: And then that helped you here? ROSE: Yeah. I learned from Bertha. I listened to her. Skin problem or what to do about it or -- the toughest that I think we went across was skin problem. Gee whiz sakes, we don't -- at first, gee, I don't know what to say. It's red or its bumpy or what, I don't know what to say. It was pretty hard. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: For me, it was, I don't know if it was like that with the other girls. I heard them other girls talk. Smart girls, downriver, up the river, I heard them talk. Smart girls. But see, I grew up in the camp. And I didn't go to school. When I now in Anchorage, I'm -- I'm in class, I'm in class with everybody from the Yukon River and from young ladies from around the coast, I know that all of them been through some kind of school while they were kids. Getting educated. And -- but not me. I only know how to read, that's all. I don't even know what lots of words means. I have to look in dictionary because I can't -- I can't -- I can't tackle it unless I -- I look in dictionary. And then they give us medical -- medical dictionary, too. Gee whiz, long words, I can't even pronounce those words. MARLA: Not many people can. ROSE: Yeah. Gee whiz sakes. It was pretty hard to pronounce those big words, you know. But anyway, it happened and it happened. I think all of us, all of us, we tackled what we were doing. But it was pretty doggone interesting.
ROSE: I thought some of them was doggone smart ladies that -- especially Pauline Peters in Nulato. Gee whiz sakes, I'm struggling and I'm all frustrated and Pauline -- Pauline Peters is -- she could -- she could be our teacher the way she talked. But I know all the time that Bertha was ahead. Bertha was way ahead. She was more or less like she know pretty much about medical things, like doctor. I think she start reading very early in her life, plus the experience. And that's the way I knew Bertha. And Pauline Peters was another one. And she talk -- she talk, too, you know. She -- she talked lots. So in other words, she like -- like a leader or something. Leader or teacher. That's the way I think about her. But it was lots of fun. It was really hard, the classes were really hard because we're going to have tests coming up, you know. And no time to lose. I go to bed about twelve o'clock at night trying to understand what I'm reading, and I'm trying to know what it is. And just is -- the test is about coming up, I get up four o'clock in the morning, and I go at it again. I got stuck when we got to study about the medicine. I got stuck because some of the medicines is -- I think it's mixed up, and shots, you know, and the shots, medicine, it's mixed up. And it's going to be on our test. And other stuff, like what's emotional, what's physical, emotional problem, physical problem. My -- our instructor got my head stuck. But I think I got every one wrong -- right with that one on my test. MARLA: Got every one right with that one? ROSE: Yeah. MARLA: And who was that instructor, do you remember? ROSE: Hope. MARLA: Hope. ROSE: Her last name was Hope. MARLA: And so you were talking about training, I'd like you to ask you a little bit more about that. You started being a community health aide in 1968? ROSE: Uh-hum (affirmative). MARLA: And when did you begin your first training? ROSE: We start going to Tanana, a bunch of us, the sub region -- I mean, not the sub region, you know -- well, it's a Galena sub region, and Fort Yukon sub region, from Upper Yukon and Lower Yukon, and from around here, Koyukuk River. We all start going to Tanana and doing some trainings, doing some trainings. Every now and then, we are -- we're to go to Tanana, and then our instructor get there and we're in training. The first one was like first aid. First aid. And how to treat and heal up some infections, what to do about it, with hot water, soaking towel, and putting it over the -- over the infection or something like that. And how to handle the hot, hot towels and all that. Like two stick is poke through this one thing and we twist it so we wouldn't touch the hot towel. And all that. Some easy things like that. But later on, it came to something. At first, you know, we were just learning how to do heights and weights, our temperature, and blood pressure. That's what we started out with. Old time stuff, you know, like just a old time temperature. They have different kind right now. And old time blood pressure, everything, all old stuff. But to us, that's brand new stuff. That's brand new stuff. There's nothing wrong with it for us. Yeah.
ROSE: Well, anyway, we went -- we went on and on like that. They -- from Lower Yukon and from the Koyukuk River, Upper Yukon, you know, we're mixed up. Then -- then pretty soon we went to -- they sent us to Anchorage and we're learning Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, Phase 4, maybe that's when we got into the medicine. MARLA: And is that all in one training session or was that multiple training sessions? ROSE: No. Different times. MARLA: Okay. ROSE: We come home and then later on sometimes we go back again to keep -- keep climbing up like. And -- and then we got paid for being health aide. Very small pay. But look like all of us, we didn't care. We didn't -- we didn't care. The first check maybe that I received was -- I think it was $185 for one whole month. That's money. I remember that. I went straight to the store and my son was in school at Copper -- Copper Valley. And I saw nice pants and nice -- nice clothes over there in the store. But I got this check, so right away I went over and I bought clothes. They had nice school clothes. And with my first check, I remember I sent him clothes and the rest of the money I bought food. So it was pretty exciting for -- for all of us. And our own self, we don't have nothing. Or me anyway, I didn't have nothing. Nothing fancy. And I was already used of that so it didn't bother me. How I'm dressed. If I'm poor or whatever. That's the farthest thing from my head. That's the farthest thing from my head is I was going to have nice clothes on. I don't even care. And -- and we went like that for so many years. Gee whiz sakes, I think I'm going to talk with Bertha one of these times and try to think back. We didn't get -- we didn't get much pay for I don't know how many years, but we were going to school and us, we are going to school, you know, they are -- they are adding more and more to it until -- until we got to Phase 4 and then other workshops were coming and we're going -- we're going back to Fairbanks with all the other health aides and we go through training for traumas and emergencies, what to do. Well, I don't know how many years I did all this, and then -- but I wasn't the only one that was in training. Somebody else was training right there in Huslia, too, the alternates. So we had airplane crash one time. And it was pretty bad. And later on I told my supervisor in Galena when she came to Huslia, I said, well, Nancy, it didn't take us long before we had -- we fixed this burned person. We worked pretty quick. There's two patients. We worked pretty quick with the IVs and oxygen and dressing. And it happened that big airplane already was in Huslia, they were doing other business, bringing school kids around for sports or something. We -- we got ahold of that one. So I said, I said to Nancy Schupp, I said, Nancy, it didn't take us long. Seems like we went -- we went there and we were done pretty quick. We already had the patients all hooked up on everything and were on to Fairbanks. And this is old days, there's no medevac, air ambulance, or team for the air ambulance. We were the team. And we flew in, both of us, with our alternate. MARLA: Who was that? ROSE: Roger Huntington and Scott Waterman. He's Non-Native. MARLA: He was your alternate? ROSE: Marty, Marty Sam -- Marty Summer, Billy Sam's daughter, but she's smart girl. Smart girl. So I said, Nancy, it didn't take us long. I said, in no time we were done. And we were in the air, I said. And she said, well, it couldn't have happened in any better place.
ROSE: But anyway, we don't know. And lots of sad things, too, we face. See. And this case, I didn't know if this first one, we didn't know if he was going to live or not. That was the thing. But there's other cases. This is -- our mind go for health aide, our mind go up and down. Sometimes just like we're happy that somebody's going to be okay, and there's other times we know that somebody's barely breathing, a little baby is barely breathing. So you know, it make our mind go up. It's -- it's pretty bad. MARLA: Like a roller coaster? ROSE: Yeah. Uh-hum. And mind just go up, go down, go up, go down. And sometimes we lose patients. It's something that we couldn't fix, it's beyond -- it's -- it's beyond what anybody can do. MARLA: And what helped you get through those times? ROSE: Me my own self, I just prayed. It's -- it's like -- it's like -- it's just like God is right there and standing with me all the way through. That's -- right now, somebody come in, you know when there's traumas in the Bush, somebody come right away to help them. The whole 25 years that I was working, I didn't get that kind of people. I stand up on my -- with my own -- with my own strength, but I pray. I believe that the help is there with me. I feel pretty sad, you know, that somebody died. And that's what happened. Somebody died and what else can we do? It's -- it's pretty bad. Towards the end, maybe I was already really tired. Now, I was just about to retire, and I was coming back up from Nulato, going to Huslia, and that Galena clinic asked me if I could -- oh, I'm going to Anchorage anyway from Galena, so they said if I could get in that other -- other charter flight with this burn patient. So I did that. And I was at conference in Anchorage -- in Anchorage. And they give us one hour where we're having conference, we're having meeting, but they give us one hour to talk to express ourself of our feelings. And lots of us we talk and some of them when they first heard that, they only start crying. You've been through traumas, somebody died with them. And probably somebody that's their close relative. And there's nothing -- nothing they could do. And they only some of them start crying, that's all, but that's how hard it is. Just we could say the education is really good. The education is good, but see, we go through all that. We see dead body and everything. So you know. For the young health aides right now, we give them credit for what they are doing. They have to be pretty brave to face up to all the emergency things. But anyway, at the same time, too, you know, that's an education. We learn from the doctors, we learn from the nurses, and then we learn as we are working because we see things, things happen, you know. And next time, we -- we hope we learned out of that, you know. And it go like that. MARLA: And, well --
MARLA: It sounds like it was really -- really difficult. What made you want to become a health aide? ROSE: Me? MARLA: Were you chosen or did you choose it? ROSE: Well, I got chosen. MARLA: You were -- who chose you? ROSE: The council members. MARLA: The Village Council? ROSE: Uh-hum (affirmative). Uh-hum. Well, I didn't mind. I thought it was just a first aid thing, I'm going to put on Band-Aid, and I'm going to put on Band-Aid and I'm going to do a little stuff. Well, that's pretty exciting for me. I didn't know. I didn't know it was going to be pretty bad. I mean, it wasn't just pretty bad all the time. MARLA: Yeah. What were some of the things that you remember that were really good accomplishments, things that made you really happy to be in the job? ROSE: You know, when we're working at the clinic, we're just steady learning. It's a -- we're doing the job and we're steady learning. And we know by the end of the time that I was going to retire, just maybe while -- not -- I was about getting ready to retire, and when somebody called me up while I'm at the clinic, by the way they talk, I know of -- I know that this -- this is a pneumonia patient or I know what they are talking about. But I got it from Dr. Johnson. You know, they work pretty hard to train us. They work pretty hard. And they -- they talk with somebody, they talk with patient in front of us. And then they ask us question. They are not going to tell us nothing, they are not going to tell us the answer. They tried to make us, if it was a skin problem, what we were in training and they asked us what we thought it was. Or if it was pneumonia or a bad cough or whatever, they asked us questions. What -- what we think is wrong with this certain patient. And most of the time I think all of us health aides had it. We got it right. The toughest one was skin problem. And at the very beginning, pelvic exams was -- that was a complicated one. But after a while, after that, we know. After that, we know it. And like we had a microscope at the clinic that was a little bit tough -- tough one to identify the disease, but it helped me. I used it. I -- I don't know nothing about it right now. I forgot now. But they work pretty hard to train us. Dr. Johnson did. He say if we got stuck, we're in class right now and they are talking with us and if things got pretty mixed up with us while they are talking, they said we could stay -- we could stay after the class and stay aside with the instructor. So we do that. I did that, me. I don't know about those other ones. They're -- they have been out for school already. And that's -- that's what happened to me. I have to study extra. Gee whiz, I couldn't even know what them big words, I didn't know what it is. And another very complicated one for me, very early, was an infant. But after Dr. Johnson instructed us, then I learn how to divide what's in our head. MARLA: Your brain? ROSE: I mean, what's the matter with our -- MARLA: Oh. ROSE: What to look for in -- from, you know, upper part of our URI, and the chest and the abdomen. I learned how to divide everything. MARLA: Oh, okay. I understand. ROSE: Yeah. MARLA: You were looking for specific issues in each parts of the body. ROSE: Yeah. MARLA: Uh-hum. ROSE: At first I didn't do that. I think I was holding the whole thing in one lump and I didn't know where -- where was where. But for -- for me, Dr. Johnson is the one that opened my eyes. Yeah. For a long time, I think about it. Goodness, that guy, he was expert. Expert at teaching.
ROSE: Anyway, what was that. There was some health aides that I thought were something else. There was one, two, Rose Winkleman in McGrath, she could have been a doctor. She could -- she saved somebody, you know. They are training us what to do in case of poisoning, you know. And I knew they taught us how to put NG tube, you know, from our nose down to our stomach to get back to suck out the poison. She did that. I didn't do it. I didn't go across nobody. She did it. She put the NG -- NG tube down to the stomach and she got that poison back out. So she saved somebody, that one. And then that -- that patient was medevaced. I heard that she saved somebody like that. MARLA: You heard that on the CB or -- ROSE: No, we talked, you know, when we go back in for workshops and stuff. We talk with each others, yeah, and we find out. Yeah. But that's -- that's like doctor. Who's going to do that, you know? MARLA: I'll bet you saved quite a few people, as well. ROSE: Well, I don't know. Me, it's just me. Today I live and tomorrow I live again. MARLA: Well, did you deliver babies, as well? ROSE: Yeah. MARLA: Do you remember your first birth, your first delivery? ROSE: Oh, yeah. I saw two emergency childbirth. One was '68, '69, or '70. Breech birth. That was just what you call emergency childbirth. That's just about the time all the health aides were beginning to attend classes in cities. And before that, maybe I saw preeclampsia, you know, their kidneys stop and everything. But she was already in coma right here in Huslia. But it was before all my training. And we went through that kind. But anyway, we just got the airplane and we had her shipped. And it was bad weather. They couldn't even get to Tanana Hospital. They have to go back to Galena Air Force Base and the medics there were doing what the doctor was telling them in Tanana or Anchorage. And I don't know if it's in Galena she woke up, but she was medevaced to Anchorage hospital right the next day. And I did -- they did -- I think they did a C-section on her for the baby to come out. And she had that seizure, convulsions, everything. She was to die right that night. So right off the bat, pretty quick, I saw two emergencies childbirths. MARLA: Wow. That's pretty scary. ROSE: Yeah. That's pretty scary. It's pretty sad, too, when I think that she wasn't going to make, it you know. She was already in coma when she got out of here. And then this other one was a breach birth. Well, he got stuck in the head for too long, so that baby lived and passed age 21, I think, and this baby was in Hope Cottage. And later on, this baby died of some seizures or something was wrong. Something was wrong. Way out in Anchorage. So that one died already. But this other, other baby, though, he's healthy man right now. Yeah. Uh-hum. So it's pretty sad to see emergencies childbirth. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: I think that's the saddest I saw is those things. Yeah. That childbirth. But after that, they trained all health aides how to do prenatal care and help them all the way through. MARLA: So then you worked with all the women in the village who were pregnant? ROSE: Yeah. Uh-hum. All the health aides took care of all of them. And when it's time to go into city, then the -- at first they get shipped to Tanana Hospital, but you know, they closed the hospital so we used to send our patients to Fairbanks, prenatal patients. And it's -- it's good, you know.
MARLA: Were there ever times that you wanted to quit? ROSE: Yeah. MARLA: And what made you stay? ROSE: TCC. I'm about ready to quit, and they tell me that if you stick it out until you're age 65, then you will be eligible to receive that insurance, Great West Life. So I'm going to quit today, and then I hang in there again for how long, for how long, then I'm barely going, so I thought, oh, I'll quit. And it went on and on like that. So now I was -- I passed my birth date, age 65, and then there was nobody to work at the clinic, just the alternates. So I'm around here and I -- there was a primary one hired there, and then she called me, so I go back there and I help her. I do all the complicating ones. And sometimes I work one whole day and I could -- I think I could report it, you know, send my time sheet, but I never send it. Sometimes I send it. Sometimes I don't send it. Yeah. But I was really happy when I retired. Really happy to be free. I just get on top of my Honda and bang, up the road I went. I got my .22 and I'm looking for spruce hens, I'm looking for berries, I got my campfire teapot, I'm free in the world. Just like I think like this. This is the kind of road we travel, on our way to heaven. That kind of thought come to my head. Gee, I'm on a clean road, trees on both sides, pretty land, pretty trees. I'm just in a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful road. Beautiful country. And it is. It is. But was I ever happy to just be free. I could just take off across the river, set fishnet, I'm free. I could just stay down there in my garden, I could water it, I could do what I want to it and grow plants, grow vegetables. I'm free, at last. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: But it was pretty bad, you know. When we have to be pent down night and day for so many years. I don't think I took much leave. I don't think -- I didn't take no leave. When I quit working, I had so much leave hours, I forgot what happened. I think they gave me the money. I think I got paid. I had too much leave hours. MARLA: Well, it would be hard to leave because you're the only one who was here. ROSE: Yeah. That's the thing. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: For about 20 years, I was working by myself in Huslia. I didn't have no -- I didn't have no girl in front to answer the phones and all that, and do the travels for me. There's lots of times I got to meet the airplane with my laboratory cultures and all that. It's got to be on airplane, so at the other end, the clinic would pick it up for the -- for the laboratory. But I was -- I was on Honda, you know. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: So I do it in few minutes. And I'm doing all the travels for the patients. I'm going out to homes and I'm checking -- checking into medicines. And I did that all by myself for about 20 years. And we were down -- we were down Anchorage and I said, well, I said, you know, I say, I -- I believe that instructors are hired for big monies. That's to train us health aides. All right. We're health aides. We go home and I said, we turn into an errand girl. That's true. We had to run in and out of the clinic for our own self. But we women out in the Bush were used of working and stuff like that. We can -- we Athabascan women can tolerate anything tough, easy or tough. We can tackle it. That's how I done it. But I'm not the only one that feel like that. All these Athabascan women all over the villages, we know, we know the tough life. That means nothing is hard for us. We can do it. See? We've been through a lot of stuff already. Since we're kids, we know we see things, stuff happen, people die quick. Probably for some, all they need was just medicine. And there was burns, people die and a lot of stuff, all of us Athabascan, we faced up to it already. So there today we are the health aides. At least there's medicine there. When I was born or when everybody was born back in twenties or thirties, there was no medicine. That's what we call sad. Baby will die, like nothing. Lots of babies died, little infants. No medicine. Today I'm here. I'm 77 years old. How I survived through the twenties and thirties and how -- how everybody came out of it way back, our mother and our father, how did we live, how did we made it, with no kind of baby shots. No kind of baby shots whatsoever. So we -- we don't call it -- we don't call it tough. We're happy. At least the medicine is there. That's one good word.
ROSE: And I'll say we were by ourself at first. There was no White people among us. But later on in our time, the White people are around. So that means what? We got help. We got medicine. And the ones that really opened doors were Public Health nurses, the ones that were traveling out in the Bush. Gee whiz, I just wish I know -- I wish I could have kept the names of all the nurses. Talk about kind. Talk about well educated young ladies. Just coming to -- coming to -- for the old time way back -- MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: -- and these modern days, at each others, just at that point. But you know, it's a miracle that there's people around here. That's miracle. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: How our mother and our father and ourselves, how we passed -- how we grow up as a baby with no shots. And we're alive. That's -- something was behind us. That means God is behind the whole thing. We're here. But see, what will happen right now, let's say, this is -- I was born in 1928. Okay. I probably didn't get baby shots. And I'm -- I'm here today. Okay. Let's talk about baby was born right now. How would they be if didn't have no baby shots? They'll die. They'll die. See. The White man's help is here. So that's a big, big step. The main part is babies. Yeah. Pay attention to the babies. That's the greatest part. But speaking about how we come, how our mother and our dad, our ancestors, they didn't get no medicine. And all of them was pretty old, too. So anyway. Anyway. They even got meningitis shots, I think. Yeah. I think it came -- almost I retired around '93, I think it was coming around that time already. But they are doing everything, all they can, to help little tiny infant to make it. To make it. And the medicine -- the modern medicine is here from White people. So that's it, you know. See, we have to do in this modern world right now, we have medicine in the clinic, when are -- something wrong with our ears, you know, like fluid get inside our eustachian tube and there's medicine in the clinic. And how to take care of our eyes, you know, for the infections and stuff. How our parents and even ourself, how we grow up out in the camp and out in the woods with no medicine for our vi -- for our virus cold, but what else say is we didn't see no virus cold, no bad cough. We're -- we're all in the camp. If we got sick, we might have got sick about once a year, after we were in fish camp or somewhere in April. That's all. There was no -- there was no all kinds of virus, upper respiratory infections, chest, bad cough. We never saw that. We never saw that. MARLA: And when you -- when there was someone sick in camp, what did you do? Was there some natural medicine or foods or herbs that -- or just would wait? ROSE: No. I don't remember now what we did. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: But we did whatever we have to. Just using hot steams and stuff like that. But really, we never -- we never saw no infections, no infections of the ears or chest and -- nobody -- we don't know nothing about diarrheas or nothing. But it's in the recent years, you know, somewhere around in the '50s maybe, that's when the people have to stay in the village. That's where the kids to go to school. Well, then it got there, you know. The virus cold and all that. Okay. That was holding down pretty good. That was holding down pretty good. But let's say in about, I don't know, let's say 25 or 30 years within the 25 or 30 years, there's that virus cold, bad cough, and stuff like that. It's just here year around. And you know what I think, me, everybody fly in airplanes. And you know, people even travel to the other countries. And what the other country got, we got, we get it, in no time us, too. And like we have schools. Well, that's -- that's where they get, it you know. But see, where I grow up we're in the camp, nobody is near us. We have no way to catch that virus cold, bad cough, or diarrheas and everything. We never saw -- we never saw that. We don't know nothing about diarrhea. Nobody say, I caught cold and I got a cough. Nobody. Because everybody is in the camp. But I think it was like that all over. Up and down the river. Everywhere there was less -- less of a virus, upper respiratory tract or diarrheas. There wasn't much of that.
MARLA: Yeah, I would imagine you would have seen a lot of changes in the -- maybe the diseases that would come through Huslia growing up. Was there something particular that you remember that was -- that affected your area, as a health aide? ROSE: As a health aide? MARLA: Yeah, like all throughout your health aide years. ROSE: Well, by that time, you know, things changed. Some of the virus was around. The virus was around and the diarrheas were around about that time now. But in our very early days, we didn't see -- we didn't -- we didn't see diarrheas and virus cold and all that stuff. MARLA: What did you do to treat it when you saw it as a health aide? What did you have in your medical kit? ROSE: All we had was cough syrup, Actifed tablets for adults, and Triaminic syrup for the -- for the babies, but that was -- that was good. That was good for their ears. Modern medicine. That's -- see, if -- if I was -- let's say, if went to meetings or stuff like that in the big cities or wherever, I would encourage this young generation to go to clinic and use the modern medicine. This is to take care of their -- their ears or their eyes, and I would encourage them to go to clinic. The health aide would tell them what to do, and maybe Actifed tablets or else Triaminic syrup for the babies, and do what the health aides do. Just use the modern medicine. Otherwise, I know that they are going to lose their hearing fast and their eyes will fade fast if they don't use modern medicine, and these work. That's today. Because I saw it happen. So I would say, you know, go to clinic. Lots of people, lots of people, they -- they avoid clinic. If they could avoid clinic, they do it. But I would say, come on, just go to clinic and go to the young health aides. I would -- I would encourage them. MARLA: And -- and in Huslia, how long has this clinic been here? ROSE: Huslia got started earlier than 1968. Already they had somebody right here working out of our house. MARLA: Who was that? ROSE: Marie Yaska. MARLA: Okay. ROSE: And Annie Vent. And you just might as well say that Annie Vent was like a doctor. And also Marie. And it's pretty interesting, she's about my age, you know, and she know, some of the people, had we been -- had we been born at the right time to get all these education, they would have been doctor. Let's say just -- just from talking with the people, just -- I'm talking -- I'm listening to them like Hugh Bifelt, Annie Vent, they are brother and sister. They could -- they could have been doctor. They could have been doctor. Talk about smart, old people. They know. Yeah. But this -- that's the way the world is. I would really say to the young people out in the Bush, use the clinic so that health aide will tell them what to do. Lots of times we'll have young -- young person at the clinic and while people would say, oh, that's just her, they -- they kind of think, oh, that's just her, I don't have to go to clinic and this kind of attitude, but see, I want to tell them, you know, go to clinic. MARLA: So did you always work in the clinic or did you have to work out of your home? ROSE: For a few years, I was working out of my home. MARLA: How was that? You had children at the time or -- ROSE: There -- I was old. They were already out in school. MARLA: Okay. ROSE: Yeah. Out in Copper Valley School and all those places. And I -- I was by myself. Except for my old man. But my old man, he don't care to pay attention to anything. He's outdoors chopping wood and all that. MARLA: Who -- did you get a lot of support from the community or from your husband or where did you get most of your support for doing the job? ROSE: You know, this is one word I hate to -- I hate to say, but this is an upright town. That's how I made it. This is an upright town. They know. They know that somebody's trying to help. But lots of things I did, emergency stuff, I have to say, the whole town back me up. Every emergency I had, the whole town helped me out. So I can't just -- I cannot just take the credit. Of course, I'm doing what the doctor is telling me through the radio. I tell him what happened and he -- every step the radio is open, every step he tell me what to do. So I'm -- I'm following what the doctors say. But the other people is there, they are helping me, handing me everything. So what helped me out is this is a good village. This is an upright village. The people got good head. They got good sense. That that's what -- that's my backup right there. That's my backup. That's how I went -- I did it. I could run away way early if it wasn't like that. I would have collapsed, you know, and just cut it short and just get away. But everybody is helping each others, too, to support. See, I thought this place was -- I got too used of everything as being looked after by the people, by the village and city council. Everything is being looked after. Like one time I was at meeting and we have about two -- two step or three step at the clinic, and they brought that up because when we're carrying the stretcher out of the clinic, the stretcher kind of get crooked because we have to step down. That's too tough, we thought, they thought for the -- that sick person. But I went to another village and I got to work way upstairs. And if we got stretcher, we got to go down like this and then there's another turn around right there. MARLA: Wow. ROSE: So there's lots of all crooked places to pass. And I went to work in another village and I go, I don't know how many steps up to the -- to the building. And well, I don't know. And when I came back to Huslia, I was happy. I thought, gee whiz, I'm in heaven. What am I complaining about? So see, it's the people. It's the people themselves that back me up all the way through. Otherwise, I wouldn't have -- I wouldn't have hung in there for that long.
ROSE: But when I quit, it's all up here now, in my -- in my bowl, in my upstairs. Everything was here. I'm just standing right there and somebody's talking to me, I know what it is already. But anyway, I go through all that physical and everything. I take all kinds of -- take all kinds of stuff, see. If I was younger, and I almost did it, I was going to go on to school and be -- become a PA. But there was a death in the family and I got really weak and nothing matters to me after that. I -- I let it go. But I could have done it, looked like. And I will have no sweat. It's already -- it's already here, except I need to -- my head need to catch that, what the White man know, I got to know the name of all -- all the parts of our body. And lots of other stuff. I probably -- that would probably be tough for me. But I really was going to go to PA school. MARLA: I bet you would have been great. ROSE: Well, I don't know. Maybe -- maybe I'll show off. I could have done it. Well, anyway. No use to talk proud. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: I'm all crippled up right now. And that's why I talk like this because I'm good for nothing. MARLA: Oh, I don't think the people in Huslia would say that. ROSE: No. I don't think -- MARLA: And -- and you were also -- you were a health aide when there -- the only communication was on the radio, right? ROSE: Uh-hum. MARLA: Did you always have communication? Did you always -- were you always able to contact the doctor? ROSE: With them old style radios, state radio, not just every day. It kind of -- the doctor is talking at the Tanana Hospital and he'd be all covered up with all kinds of noise. So it was not every day. But they helped -- it's really the doctors in Tanana that backed us up by talking to us on the radio and telling us what to do. I know -- I know that part backed me up. But that's old radio. MARLA: Yeah. So what did you do when you couldn't get in touch with them or the doctor? ROSE: I just do the best I could. What else can I do? Yeah. That's all. But later on, you know, when I get ahold of doctor or else, you know, if mail plane land, then I sent the patient out. And that's the way it went. Yeah. MARLA: And then how long was it before you were able to have a different kind of communication? ROSE: Well, not really too long. Then I know that we got ATS -- they call it ATS-1, I think. ATS-1 or something. And then we have somebody standing by at the University of Alaska. And -- MARLA: And that was a satellite? ROSE: Satellite. MARLA: Uh-hum. ROSE: Yeah. Well, that's the one that helped me out, I know. But I'm talking right now, you know, I'm talking -- I'm talking good, I'm talking proud. Look at what they got in the -- in the clinic now. That's pretty modern. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: Yeah. MARLA: So did you see machines come in the clinics throughout the years, or did you see some medical changes in the clinic over the years? ROSE: Yeah. MARLA: Like what? ROSE: Gee whiz, I couldn't even -- the only thing that they took away was that microscope. I even was -- I said that I even was using microscope because I kind of -- I kind of tried out every day until I can move it around and focus on what I'm looking for. MARLA: Uh-hum. ROSE: Uh-hum. And anyway, right now, they have those other kind of blood pressure. All they got to do is put it on our arm, and set it, and it record. That's how quick they go. And there's something else that they hook us -- they hook us up on. It's -- and then up there in the hospital, you know how our heart work by that G -- MARLA: An EKG or? ROSE: Couldn't be. Something like EKG. MARLA: So they have all that here? ROSE: They got -- they got it all. MARLA: And X-ray machines? ROSE: No. MARLA: No. ROSE: Not here. MARLA: Okay. ROSE: Uh-hum. That's what we really need. The X-ray machine. Because there's no reason to get an airplane and fly for big money to Fairbanks just -- just if they train somebody how to use the X-ray machine, that can be done right here in this village. There's -- when the budget is always cut back, there's no reason for us to be shipped out to Fairbanks. Maybe I'll go to meeting and I'll tell them, give us that. MARLA: That's a good idea.
MARLA: Is there any advice you would give to somebody today who is a health aide who might want to become a health aide? ROSE: Any advice? MARLA: Uh-hum. Things that you've learned that you would want to pass on to them or -- ROSE: Yeah. I can do that. Yeah. I could do that. But see, most of the time I don't say nothing because I don't want to act like I got it. I know it all. See. So most of the time, I just keep quiet. But see, I'm pretty old. And when I go to clinic, I say, I -- oh, I just say, this is wrong with me. MARLA: Well, but is there anybody -- is there anything you would like to say to anybody who would like to be a community health aide or somebody who might want to become a community health aide? To encourage them or to -- ROSE: To encourage them. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: Because I know what's going to happen. You know. In the next few years or something like that, all of us elders will be gone. Yeah. And they got to stand up, they got to stand up for their village. I think they are aware of it. But there's some of the young ladies, they are doggone good, you know. They are -- they are the backbone of Huslia. So it ain't that bad, the way out there. You know, we're a long ways from the -- the main -- main towns or main places. We're about 200 miles out. And we come -- you know, we could travel only on airplane, which is all right. That's all right. We'll go stay in the woods all we want. MARLA: And do you think that there are advantages or disadvantages to growing up and living in the same place where you were a health aide? ROSE: With -- could you say that again? MARLA: I -- I just wonder if it was difficult or easier because you lived in Huslia and then became a health aide? ROSE: Oh, I know what you're talking about. I didn't always live around here. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: I lived on Yukon River for half of my life. And yeah. That -- I know what you're talking about. It would have been easier, let's say -- let's say I altogether moved to upper Yukon or oh, let's say around the coast even. Then I don't know who is who. Then it's maybe it will be much easier. At the same time, it's the other way, too. You know how we work when we work, we know the history. And that that's -- that help us out. But if we move somewhere else where we don't know, just nobody. We wouldn't know -- we wouldn't know the history except by looking at the chart. But -- but we know. We know the history. Like in my -- in my mother's family, we mostly got like heart disease. In another family, they wouldn't have no, like, body disease, you know, like their heart, their heart or their thyroid and all that. But see, if we work in one place all the time, then it's all up here already. But did I ever enjoyed Nulato. I worked there one full week, more than once I worked down there. That I ever, ever enjoyed working in Nulato. MARLA: And why? ROSE: And I'll say I tackled all of what I was doing. Because we used to live there. And I am so happy to just see everybody there. I am happy to see them, and just like I'm visiting them, but I am happy because I know what I'm doing. That's the thing. (Whispers) I think I'm bragging. Let's say at one time, very, very sad thing happened in the nearby village around here. Lots of -- lots of traumas. Drownings, you know. And my boss transferred me to Hughes. We don't know all who came from the coast, from all over and everywhere to help them search. I don't know how much people I had. I don't know how much people I had. And these people were from the coast. Today is September what, 27th. MARLA: Uh-hum. ROSE: What, 2005. I just got to be proud I didn't get stuck. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: I had a lot of people from the coast side and they came to clinics for this and that. I didn't get stuck. That's -- I was coming close to retiring. And that's because I know what I was doing, but it's all of because my instructors and experience I went through. I just thought when I was leaving I could just about talk and just say no sweat. MARLA: That's what happens when you get 25 years of experience. ROSE: Yeah, that was -- that was going long ways. That was going long ways. But anyway, I'm just -- at the same time, you know, I'm pretty dumb and I'm pretty -- pretty worthless. And that's why, you know, we got to -- we got to say good words once in awhile. MARLA: Yeah. I think that that makes sense. ROSE: Yeah.
ROSE: That I -- yeah, you know, it's a really interesting when you think about way back, I'm talking about when there was no medicine, and compare -- compare it with right now. You know, they are -- they are -- they are in good care. I have to say that people all over the villages, they are in good care because when we were kids, we know that babies died only because of diarrhea, you know. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: And it's so easy to help that little baby, just water, fluids, water, fluids, right along. And that, nobody knew, you know. And some easy things that the kids could have received, the baby could have received because we didn't know, you know. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: We thought we were doing the best that we could, and lots of babies passed on. Lots of kids passed on. So you know, we have to -- in our mind, we've got to think through the Word or through God, and in our mind, we've got to think, well, thank God. Thank God for that. That's how much we -- how much is coming to us. So we can't kick -- we can't kick the world, we can't kick at White people, why that White man is over here and stuff like that. We don't need to kick -- kick about stuff. Yeah. (Whispers.) MARLA: Okay. Okay. So we're back on. ROSE: Uh-hum. MARLA: I was wondering, what type -- what type of person do you think makes a good health aide? What qualities in a person's personality make them a good health aide? ROSE: Well, you know, you got to be both. First, you know, you've got to be a strong person. And you've got to be tough, too, you know. You cannot let stuff hurt your feelings. Forget it. If you want to be health aide, forget it, that hurt feelings. MARLA: And what do you mean by "hurt feelings"? ROSE: Well, there are sensitive people that couldn't tolerate no traumas, or any other thing. So you have to be tougher than that, you know. You've got to -- if you're working for the public, you've got to learn how to tolerate troubles. And that's it. Yeah. You've just got to stand it. Not only people that are -- that are health aide go through tough times and traumas from people and all that. Anybody, anybody who work for the public go through those kind of troubles. So you know, you have to -- you've got to be smart. You've got to be smart girl and -- or smart man or whatever to stand what you got to stand. And no sense in making it bigger. Just be -- just be the way you are. And then I suppose we could be anyway we wish, but you know, we try our best. That's the way it go.
ROSE: What else? MARLA: I think that that's -- that's part -- well, how do you feel about having been a health aide? ROSE: How do I feel about having been a health aide. Today is 2005, I'm me, I'm happy. I'm happy at least I was a health aide. See, I grew up in a camp, I know nothing about White man's education. I somehow or other knew how to read, which was pretty interesting when we're in the camp and we got no books, but we see on the shelf baking powder or salt and we know how to spell baking powder, know how to spell salt. We know how to spell flour, we know how to spell milk, all the groceries that we see on the shelf, rice or macaroni's, that's our books. See. And -- and this modern days and modern times, kids got way over, lots of materials what they can learn out of. They are so plumb full of everything that they can learn with compared to us, we were just in a little cabin and we were just reading from what's on the shelf. No kind of books, I'd say. And then as I'm -- as I'm getting older and older, you know, I'm reading other books and I'm doing other stuff, and I'm struggling with ABA class and struggling with whatever I'm going to learn. MARLA: What does ABA stand for? ROSE: Adults basic education, maybe. MARLA: Okay. ROSE: Uh-hum. Well. And I ask questions and I talk with people, and then I look in dictionary. See, well, like I'm two ways, I could say, oh, White man didn't teach me all that. I saw it. I saw it. And you know you could just hear me. And I can just read like nothing. I don't know what I'm reading. I'm pretty smart, you know. Somebody will think I'm pretty smart because I'm reading. I don't know what I said. I didn't -- maybe I don't know what it means. But yeah, you know, I forgot it now. I don't even think about that I was health aide or -- I don't even think about it now. I'm too busy. You know, I like to sew and I like to do beadwork and I like to ride around up the road. And I always say I'm going to pick berries, but when I find out that I couldn't really bend down, I pick about a cup and I lay down on the ground. And then I try again. I get about 10 berries and I lay down again. And that's how I am now. I just lay down in the woods. Pretty soon I make fire and I make hot tea and, oh, that's beautiful life. Sitting out in the country on a clean land and you got campfire, you got nice hot tea. There's no life better than that. That's so beautiful. Just to be out in the woods. I think that's my -- that's my heaven. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: Just living like that. And right now, I -- I don't even think about I was health aide. I don't know. I don't know, it pass -- it pass already in my head.
MARLA: Well, do you remember, was there something that stands out, like your favorite part about being a health aide? Or you have to go back and dig in, but there was something that was your -- the thing that stands out in your mind as being your favorite thing about being a health aide? ROSE: Oh, fright sake, I don't even know. I don't even know. I -- when I was doing it, I liked to do it. MARLA: What did you like about it? ROSE: I'm kind of -- I'm learning as I'm working. And I -- I read those books, too. And then, you know, I was still learning, still like learning and learning still, yeah. So I liked that. Uh-hum. MARLA: That's good. ROSE: Uh-hum. MARLA: And one other thing was you were talking about using the CB radio before. And I wondered how were you able to handle or how did you guys handle the issue of confidentiality at that time? Or was it an issue? ROSE: I didn't think about it. I didn't think about it. I don't even remember how everything happened. And I don't really -- I don't really know all what happened right off the bat. Yeah. Everything was right over the -- them old radios. Everything was right over on there. And it was hard, you know. Sometimes we never -- we never hear the doctor, or maybe it's the same way at the other end, too. We don't -- we could barely -- we could barely hear each others. So lots of things was hard, too. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: Uh-hum. MARLA: And you mentioned that the doctors came to visit? ROSE: Uh-hum. MARLA: How often did that happen? ROSE: They were coming to this -- this is a small place, so they were coming twice a year. Uh-hum. MARLA: And what about the Public Health nurses? ROSE: The Public Health nurses were coming more than that. That's the one that got, well, all the villages on step with baby shots, well child care, and everything like that. MARLA: So the Public Health nurses were helping to train you before you got training or -- ROSE: Yeah. They were helping us. They were helping us. And we can ask questions. So that's what happened. MARLA: Okay. ROSE: Uh-hum. Good nurses, too. Good. MARLA: Did they come from Tanana? Or Fairbanks? ROSE: They might have been stationed in Fairbanks. And from there they traveled. Yeah. Uh-hum. It was pretty darn interesting what those Public Health nurses. MARLA: Yeah. ROSE: Yeah. They were really well-educated nurses. And I learned quite a bit from them. Uh-hum. Some of them I -- I think Carol Welsh is still around. Yeah, she's -- maybe her home is Albuquerque, but she come to Alaska every -- every summer. And further back, I said that Nancy Schupp was doggone interesting person. She work in Fairbanks right now.
ROSE: What else? MARLA: I think -- I think that you answered most of my questions -- ROSE: Uh-hum. MARLA: -- that I have on this sheet. So if there's anything else you wanted to say for the record about your life being a health aide, your experiences, then I would say, you know, any advice you might have for future. ROSE: Yeah. I suppose -- I suppose there's lots to say. But you know, the young health aides right now, they are giving their best shot. Even the young alternates that I had at the clinic, I know that they were -- they were really, really a high strong young ladies. They were doing their best. We have good people here. Yeah. We have good girls. Right now we've got good staff back there. Talk about smart girls. They are -- them -- I don't know how much -- I don't think they are like me. Them going out for school, you know. So with the school, with the education they got, they haven't got very -- well, not like me, there still ain't no -- they know. They know how to go to school. They have been out for high school, some of them even been out for college. So they tackle their job. So it's -- it's much easier for them, I think. Uh-hum. We got one back there, one young one that came up, Jana, Jana Sam, what, she's been out in college for five or six years. Yeah. See, she already was -- she thought she was going to be RN. But when she heard this opening for the third primary health aide, she came back to the Bush and she wanted to get in the Health Aide Program. And she said the reason why she's doing that is because she always wished that she lived -- she -- she wanted to be nurse, you know, and but live out here in the Bush. So that's pretty good anyway. Most of the time we lose our good ones, the ones that are nurses or PA or something, we lose them to the city. But this -- this one anyway is with us right now. MARLA: That's great. ROSE: Yeah. MARLA: I have to flip the tape. ROSE: Go ahead. MARLA: Well, I just wanted to say thank you for doing this interview. ROSE: Thank you very much. MARLA: Thank you. ROSE: Anyway, this was really fun. MARLA: Good. I'm glad. I had fun, too. ROSE: Uh-hum. Uh-hum.