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Willa Ashenfelter and Irene Aukongak, Part 2
Willa Ashenfelter, Irene Aukongak

This is the continuation of an interview with Willa Ashenfelter and Irene Aukongak on September 13, 2005 by Karen Brewster at the Norton Sound Health Corporation, Village Health Services office in Nome, Alaska. Willa and Irene were interviewed together because they were health aides in nearby villages during the same time period, worked closely together, went to training together, and are close friends. They traveled to Nome for the interview. They have great fun remembering their younger days and telling stories together, each adding to the memories of the other.In this second part of a three part interview, Willa and Irene talk about the role of the health aide in a community, dealing with suicide, domestic violence, and emergencies, providing quality patient care, developing a patient records system, communicating with doctors and with each other, and relying on each other as co-workers and close friends. They also talk about the use of plants as traditional medicine, how they handled the stress of the job, and the joy of saving lives.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2004-17-16_PT.2

Project: Community Health Aide Program
Date of Interview: Sep 13, 2005
Narrator(s): Willa Ashenfelter, Irene Aukongak
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
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How they helped to deal with various non-medical problems in the community, and how they helped each other as friends and colleagues.

The third generation of health aides in Willa's family, memories of their first emergencies, and a story about one death in particular.

Caring for patients and respecting their choices about their own health care.

Developing a system of patient records in the village and increasing the health aides' responsibilities.

Different uses of plants as traditional medicines even up to today.

A little more on traditional medicines, and advice for future health aides on how to stay motivated and deal with the stress of the job.

Dealing with difficult patients and their choices, and not saying, “I told you so!”

Some success stories.

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IRENE:  Mostly. WILLA:  Those are -- those are really hard.  When we came in one time for -- they called in all the health aides, one of the ladies was saying if the village -- if the people in the village called -- ever called them for another suicide, to please let the health aide know who the person is.  She got called and she didn't know who it was.  She got there and found it was family member.  And she went into shock.  Those kinds of stuff, we were often called to do.  But the VPSO program in the village really took a lot of that off from us, that responsibility.  Because they are -- they are the ones that are called to -- anything that's has violence or. IRENE:  They are the first ones, first responders.  KAREN:  Yeah, first responders.  Yeah.  Yeah, but when you -- when you started there, I mean, you didn't have that.  IRENE:  Yeah.  I didn't have anything.  Just me in the village, you know.  KAREN:  I can't imagine having to deal with that.  IRENE:  I used to -- sometimes I used to even be called to stop an argument or fight between husband and wife or -- but I never, you know, go in.  But when they saw me, they always kind of, maybe out of respect for me, I don't know.  KAREN:  It seems like there is a lot of respect and trust between the people in the village and the health aides.  IRENE:  Uh-hum.  So maybe when they saw me, they kind of -- but I used to go in, you know, when I -- and then they -- I'd talk to them.  KAREN:  Do you think it's still that way, that there's a lot of respect and trust for the health aides?  WILLA:  I think so. IRENE:  Yeah, I think so. WILLA:  Nowadays they have not one, but one -- one, two -- we have three part-time health aides.  And I don't know if it's made things -- people kind of -- I don't know if they have a choice, but those girls are there.  And for a while, when we first quit -- IRENE:  They want to see us, still want to see us. And there was a couple elders that asked for me, but one of the health aides says, she's retired.  We could ask her to visit you.  So I started visiting, you know, visiting the elders.  That helps them, I guess. KAREN:  Yeah.  And what year did you retire? IRENE:  Same year, March '0 -- WILLA:  I think it was 2002.  Yeah.  IRENE:  2002.  I retired on my husband's birthday, but then he didn't make it and he died.  So.  Her and I got closer again.  Sometimes when we call each other.  Remember that one phone call? WILLA:  Right.  I called her one time and I was telling her -- I was telling her, I haven't seen you for such a long time, I started crying, and I moved my phone some way and we got disconnected. IRENE:  I was just going to start -- I answered, I was just going to start hearing her cry, and the phone went dead. KAREN:  Oh, no. WILLA:  I called right back, by then we were laughing. IRENE:  She told me what was she was going to tell me about, so then we started laughing. KAREN:  Did you call each other for advice on patients sometimes?  IRENE:  Yeah, sometimes. WILLA:  Yeah, sometimes. IRENE:  We talked a lot about it. KAREN:  You know, I have a patient, instead of calling a doctor, you'd call each other?  IRENE:  Even our daughters -- my daughters always are calling me still, you know.  I always tell them, you go to the doctor, you are right there.  There's doctors right there.

WILLA:  My youngest daughter is -- she works at the clinic.  She's a health practitioner.  She went and got all of her training.  I think she's -- she good at what she does. There was a position opening -- a position open in the village and she told me she's going to apply.  I didn't encourage her, I didn't discourage her because I knew a lot of what she was going to go through.  And I figured if she gets it, she'll be getting it on her own.  It's something she wants to do and she'll get it then.  And they accepted her.  She went to her training, and she's good at what she does.  But I remember her first couple months at work, how unsure she was, and I know that feeling, so I figured the more she does her job, the better she'll get at it.  And she's -- she's been working it I think five years now.  KAREN:  Has she ever told you why she wanted to do health aide work? WILLA:  No.  But I wasn't going to discourage her or encourage her, it was something she wanted to do.  KAREN:  So she's the third generation? WILLA:  Yeah.  She and I get along really well.  She's kind of like a friend.  And she'll confide in me. IRENE:  It's a good feeling when our kids confide in us, huh. WILLA:  Yeah.  That is something.  KAREN:  When you first started as health aides, and you know, there you are, your first emergency, how did -- were you scared?  What did you do?  How did you deal with that?  Do you remember what you did and what you felt?  IRENE:  Oh, Lord.  You anticipate how it's going to be and stuff.  And oh, no.  Start praying.  You know, you never know what you're going to see or what.  WILLA:  Sometimes I expect the worst, and when I get there, I'm almost relieved it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  IRENE:  I always feel like, oh, good, it's okay.  WILLA:  Expect the worst and I was happy when it was not.  IRENE:  Yeah, seems like we always expect the worst.  WILLA:  And it's not as bad.  IRENE:  And when we get there, we could handle it.  KAREN:  It seems like it would be scary with not much training and some bad situation, how you would know what to do and not get scared and --  IRENE:  Uh-hum.  There's this one person, that's the one that asked me to be the person to help the doctors and the nurses, he -- he used to see me all the time, clinic, and he would come over, he had heart problem.  And I would want him to come over and see the doctor, but then he always end up at the clinic. And one time they were having a meeting.  I heard heavy footsteps coming up those little stairs.  And all of a sudden, bang, on the porch.  So I ran out and, oh, no, that was the person.  WILLA:  And it was as bad as it could get.  IRENE:  Yeah.  After all that training we had CPR and stuff, I was right up there, you know, did everything because he had no pulse and stuff, so we started CPR.  And there was somebody else that knew how to, so I called the doctors.  We couldn't get him.  I'd holler, call him.  But anyway, the doctor -- what's that -- he used to go to White Mountain, too. WILLA:  Drickey (phonetic).  IRENE:  Not Dr. Drickey.  I don't remember the doctor.  I could picture him.  He went down there and checked.  He had a massive, massive heart attack.  He used to come over, and before that, one of the doctors talked about surgery, and I guess he didn't want that.  When he come -- comes here, and then they go see me, then he would tell me what went wrong -- I mean, his EKG was.  And I tell him, you know, he should come -- come over and talk about his problems to the doctor.  And he told me, the last time he told me was Irene, don't tell my wife what -- you know, what's going on with him.  He wants to finish -- he wanted to finish his work.  He wanted to stay at home.  Finish his work.  So I -- sometimes I wonder if I should have told her, but then he told me to promise not to tell her, so I kept it like he wanted me to.  Like he wanted me to do.  So -- because she always gets so upset.  How many times they took him over to the hospital, a number of times.  I felt real bad, those kids were small.  Some of them kids were small.  But that was his choice, I think.

KAREN:  How do you know when to respect the person's choice and when to push for more care?  IRENE:  What I did, yeah, I did, every time he got sick, I would call the doctor, talk to him, and tell him that he didn't want to, or cannot listen to me, or you know, he wanted to do his own thing.  And then he would go. After then we send -- I send him here, he used to go right back.  And I'd say, oh, no, you should have stayed over there, you know, and finish seeing the doctor, or -- have the doctor -- the doctor -- that's when it first -- that's when we used to hear about it, but actually, I guess they didn't know.  A lot of people always used to be scared to.  KAREN:  Go for heart surgery? IRENE:  Heart surgery.  KAREN:  I was thinking, yeah, what it's like to try and take care of somebody and have them not want the care, what do you do.  WILLA:  I kind of -- a lot of times, we respected what the -- we didn't always agree with -- we -- a lot of times we wanted them to see the doctor more.  IRENE:  I never, never agreed, but... WILLA:  But we kind of respected what their choices were. IRENE:  And we -- we can't force anybody to see the doctor, you know.  WILLA:  No.  IRENE:  You know, like we talk to the doctor.  Sometimes I always feel like handcuffing them and tie them down and bring them over.  But I couldn't do that.  KAREN:  Well, it sounds like both of you cared a lot about your villages and the people that you were taking care of.  IRENE:  I took care of my mother-in-law, my mother-in-law was mostly like bedridden.  She had real bad osteo -- WILLA:  Osteoarthritis.  IRENE:  Osteoarthritis.  Sometimes she would fall and break a bone or something, we would have to send her over.  And grampa was always so stubborn.  But they were good people.  KAREN:  When you first started, what kind of equipment did you have?  You said you didn't have clinics, but what -- WILLA:  We didn't have anything but our hands.  That was it.  We had no stethoscopes, no thermometers.  IRENE:  I think one of the nurses give me her stethoscope and cuff.  And that's it.  Thermometer.  WILLA:  And a lot of what we did at the beginning was what the patient told us how they were feeling.  And if there was anything noticeable that we could see that was abnormal, then we would -- that was not right, then we would report those to the doctor.  I remember a long time ago, and this was one of my relatives, she had a -- this was one of the lumps that I recorded.  When I first saw it, it was small.  I told the doctor it was the size of a pea, and by the time I rechecked a week later, it had gone to the -- almost the size of a plum.  Those are the things we reported, things we could see.  They ended up having her come on in, see what was going on with her.  And another one was a lump behind the knee that grew all of a sudden.  And it was kind of clear and it was causing a lot of discomfort.  I reported that and that patient came in.  It turned out to be a Bakers -- what the doctor said was a Baker cyst behind the knee.  KAREN:  What's that? WILLA:  Don't ask me what that is, that's just what he said.  But those were things we -- that kind of thing we reported.  And later on, we learned about rigid -- rigid abdomens, you know, what goes on with those, what causes them.  It's caused by bleeding in the abdomen, any kind of bleeding in the abdomen will cause this kind of signs and symptoms.  But those were things we learned during training. KAREN:  But you did it for a long time before you had training, right? WILLA:  Yeah.  It was a long time before we got paid.  IRENE:  Yeah, a long time, but it was well worth it, you know, we learned.  WILLA:  But we stayed -- we stayed there.  IRENE:  Because, you know, some -- you know, when we care, we don't care -- we don't mind, we just take care of our people.  KAREN:  And you said, I mean, you did it for 12 years without getting paid?  IRENE:  Yeah.  12 years.  Maybe a little bit more, but that's all right.  I don't want to think about it.

KAREN:  Did they ever use a satellite system here for radio telephone communication or video conferencing or anything like that?  IRENE:  Did they start that -- I -- I don't know what's going on.  WILLA:  I don't think so.  I know those ladies had to -- IRENE:  They could look at the ear. WILLA:  They could send a picture into the doctor, and the doctor could see what's going on.  They started that just before we were quitting, and we knew how -- a lot of us in the village knew how to work those, but the doctor here that was taking the traffic didn't always know how to get the picture.  So it was kind of -- IRENE:  Whenever we went to Anchorage for workshop, we used to bring that up and we tried to -- I tried once before we retired.  But not in our clinic, just down in Anchorage.  They were training.  KAREN:  And did it work?  IRENE:  It must -- must be working now, they are using it at our clinics now.  KAREN:  Yeah, but when you tried it that time, did it work?  IRENE:  Yeah.  And people practice, health aides practice.  But there's so many, even computers were getting to be too much.  WILLA:  We finally -- IRENE:  It was too modern. WILLA:  We finally have clinics, I think, 1974.  IRENE:  Yeah.  We started getting -- WILLA:  Before that, we -- when the doctor came, he worked at the school, in the school basement for -- and he brought a black -- a black binder.  Every time he saw patients, he would make his own notations.  And when he left, he took that with him, so there was no records in the village.  KAREN:  Oh, no.  WILLA:  Until the one year, they sent us a little metal -- IRENE:  Box.  WILLA:  Yeah, a little gray box with cards in.  We put the patient's name at the top, their birth date.  And if we gave them any penicillin, we would put the date and we -- usually we gave them penicillin for 7 days, 7 to 10 days, I think.  IRENE:  Yeah.  We would go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  WILLA:  Yeah.  That was -- yeah, that was -- IRENE:  To keep track of how much.  WILLA:  And we don't know how we got by with no allergies to penicillin.  IRENE:  Uh-hum.  Miracle.  WILLA:  That was kind of our big antibiotic was penicillin. IRENE:  And I was so happy after we started getting medication and stuff.  There was some people that broke out with hives and stuff.  My goodness.  KAREN:  Yeah, so before the metal box you're talking about, were there records kept in the village at all?   IRENE:  No.  KAREN:  It all went with the doctor?  IRENE:  They all went with the doctor.  KAREN:  Wow. IRENE:  But then when I'd see a person, I used to just, you know, document on the tablet so I won't forget what to say to the doctor, you know, temperature, pulse, respiration, and all that, just jot them down. WILLA:  And a lot of that, sometimes we remembered or we went by what we know about the patient.  Because we knew everybody.  IRENE:  Yeah, little village.  When I first went to Golovin, there was only 11 people.  KAREN:  Wow.  How many people live there now?  IRENE:  150 maybe.  It can't grow that big because of birth control.  I used to tease those girls.  WILLA:  I think the Health Aide Program has come a long way, for medicine in the village. We didn't give any babies any baby shots.  The Public Health nurse gave those when they went to White Mountain, when they went to the village. KAREN:  How come they -- they did it instead of you?  WILLA:  We didn't know how -- at the beginning, we didn't know.  IRENE:  No training then.  We didn't know how to do shots and stuff until later, until they start training us to do it.  Maybe see some pap smears on the way down.  WILLA:  Women's clinic.  IRENE:  Women's clinic.

IRENE:  We are real -- I think up here we are real fortunate because of our trainers.  WILLA:  Yeah, and the doctors.  IRENE:  And the doctors.  They taught us how to do stuff, and we had to do them.  When we were in the village anyway.  KAREN:  What about any kinds of traditional medicines or traditional healing?  Did either of you use any of those?  IRENE:  Ever since I could remember, my mom, even my grandma used to use those traditional stuff like, what they call that healing stuff, all kinds -- they had all kinds of traditional things.  WILLA:  They used plants and stuff.  IRENE:  Yeah, plants.  I know number one, enemas, enemas weren't traditional.  WILLA:  I remember growing up that was kind of what they did. IRENE:  Enemas to clean us out so you won't get sick.  WILLA:  Yeah.  That was. KAREN:  Well, maybe traditional, maybe they had a plant that you ate or tea that you drank that would do the same thing.  IRENE:  Maybe.  Maybe they think that's what's causing our stomachs to hurt or something.  Oh, I must have hurt. KAREN:  Like maybe there was a tea or something from a plant or something that would cause the same effect.  IRENE:  Yeah.  Yeah.  WILLA:  I know when I had a really bad earache one time, the treatment, one of the things that to relieve -- or they thought it worked was to blow cigarette smoke into the ear.  And one of my uncles, my -- my -- my dad's younger brother smoked and my dad didn't, but mama wanted uncle to smoke in my ear.  He said, no, he's not going to smoke -- no, he is not going to do that.  And mama was mad at him.  And he gave her a cigarette, and mama isn't -- wasn't a smoker.  I remember her being so mad, she lit her cigarette and mumbled and she smoked in my ear.  I don't remember if it helped me or not, but I just remember mama -- being so impressed with mama because she's going to smoke and she's not a smoker.  I must have been 7 or 8 years old.  And she was so mad with uncle because he wouldn't smoke in my -- in my ear. IRENE:  I think what they did was, too, is they put warm -- some kind of warm oil.  WILLA:  Into the ear, yeah.  IRENE:  Yeah.  Some.  KAREN:  Do you know any of the plants that they used to use?  Did you learn that?  IRENE:  Yeah.  WILLA:  Stinkweed,charqak.  IRENE:  They have a lot of those ikituk, was big, you know, there was some. WILLA:  Yeah.  IRENE:  You'd always want to land on those flower types, ikituk.  And sometimes you use -- they use that -- that wild tea.  WILLA:  Oh.  Iuke. IRENE:  Iuke.  Even -- they even use that like pine -- pine cone -- pine trees.  They boil that.  Make water -- I mean juice.   WILLA:  I remember growing up and one of my girlfriends, she lived next door, she got a infected on her -- a scratch got infected on her hand, and her mom cut trade charqak leaves, and really powder them and put it on and cover it with -- I don't remember if it was -- something clean anyway, she covered it.  And by the next day, it was starting to heal.  So that -- so that worked.  But I remember she had that for a couple days before they tried that.  IRENE:  I remember my mama, too, she used to use a lot of that bark root.  And more mine, I had a sore spot right -- you could see the scar now, real small.  I had a sore spot, she used that stuff.  Went away and never grew back, when I was a little girl.  I had a lot of stuff going on with me like -- I like to climb trees, too.  And that's how I got this thing.  I tried to -- we were far from the village and we were on our way to our fall camp, she put this down real neat and put that stuff and really wrapped it.  WILLA:  What you do to your finger?  IRENE:  I was climbing a tree and I slid down.  Right down there and broke -- I must have cut my -- WILLA:  Your tendon?  IRENE:  My tendon.  They are still using that now when I went home this summer.  My sister is still using that for medicine.  WILLA:  Chagrik?  IRENE:  Chagrik.  And they drink it, too.  My dad used to drink that. WILLA:  My husband did it and for him, it worked.  And I think -- I think in my head, it's -- it's working for him because he believed in it.  But he used to pick it in the fall, dry it, and boil both -- boil it in a pot, and save the juice, he drank the juice.  If he drank too much, he said it will -- it will make him sleepy.  And it did, for him, it worked.

KAREN:  Did either of you ever use those kinds of traditional plants or medicines or -- as a health aide?  Did you -- WILLA:  I didn't.  IRENE:  I tried using it on myself that -- that juice of that plant.  WILLA:  It doesn't taste very -- IRENE:  I tried -- I tried for a while.  WILLA:  But we didn't use it.  IRENE:  My mother-in-law used to drink it.  WILLA:  But they kind of -- but we didn't give it to patients to try.  IRENE:  No, we didn't.  But some of them are still doing that.  Mostly elder ladies.  So.  And they start picking a lot of leaves, you know, like churell (phonetic), all that stuff.  Traditional food. KAREN:  If you have -- do you have any advice for younger people who might want to go into being health aides nowadays?  IRENE:  It got awful quiet.  WILLA:  I was waiting for you to say -- IRENE:  I was waiting for you to say something, too.  They would -- you know, they have to really want to do it, you know.  They have to really want to do something, really.  I know I did when I first started, I really wanted to go to that training, after someone talked to me.  And then I made it.  And when I went down and they asked me, and you know, at first, I was kind of -- my husband was there and he said, go ahead, so I did.  And it worked for me because I wanted to help someone and I wanted to do it, not because -- you know.  WILLA:  Yeah, I think someone -- someone -- someone has to really want to.  IRENE:  Yeah, someone has to really want to do it on their own.  WILLA:  Because no -- no amount of -- I don't think no amount of money will ever -- it's got to be something that you want, you want to do.  IRENE:  Like long ago, we didn't think about money first, we thought about -- we thought about the people first.  People -- like people come first. WILLA:  Uh-hum.  KAREN:  It seems that I've heard more recently with the Health Aide Program, they don't have people stay on as health aides for as many years as you did, that there is a higher turnover rate.  WILLA:  I think a lot of support really means a lot.  IRENE:  That's -- I remember that support.  WILLA:  Yeah, really support.  IRENE:  And training. WILLA:  I remember when we first started reporting, the doctors seemed like they didn't always ask how we were feeling following something that -- while we are doing -- taking care of our patient with a lot of health problems, they didn't -- they didn't ask us how we were doing.  And when they finally did, we would break down. IRENE:  How are you feeling. WILLA:  It was kind of nice to know the doctors at the other end cared how we were -- or what was going on with us. I remember one of the ladies in the bigger villages said she was doing really well, she was reporting a patient that she took care of for a long time, it was a cancer patient she said, and this is toward -- toward the end, she was reporting to one of the doctors, and she said she was doing really well until the doctor asked her how -- how are you doing.  She said she didn't mean to but she started crying.  And I think it -- it -- it means a lot if they -- they know that we care, that they are -- they know we are going through a hard time.  A lot of the -- sometimes I would meet girls that were health aides and they would quit for a while and take a job at the school.  Then they would go back again.  But they would tell me that they really needed that time away, that things, when they quit, were getting too much.  IRENE:  That's when we used to think about quitting, huh? WILLA:  Yeah, when things just seemed -- IRENE:  Like we didn't have time out.  WILLA:  Some things just piled up.  But those -- those young ladies would go back to work again.  KAREN:  Yeah, I'm amazed that you stuck with it.  WILLA:  I think I stuck with it because I knew that there was -- then that there was nobody else there but -- that I was the only one. IRENE:  My retreat was camping.  Camping was my fun. KAREN:  In the summertime?  IRENE:  Yeah, summertime.  And I would take time to go ice fishing.  WILLA:  And snowmachine.  IRENE:  Snowmachine.  Sometimes when I'm under real bad stress, I used to just go snowmachine riding.  Or call her up. KAREN:  Is it a quick snow machine trip from Golovin to White Mountain? IRENE:  Yeah, it is.  WILLA:  It's not bad.  IRENE:  Yeah.  We even went up with cars.  WILLA:  Yeah.  We went, too, when it was -- there was hardly any snow and real thick ice. KAREN:  So you crossed the bay by car?  IRENE:  Uh-hum.  Straight up.  WILLA:  My husband would call them and invite them for supper so they would come up.

KAREN:  Do you think there is something about your personalties that made you be a good health aide?  IRENE:  Might be.  Because people -- WILLA:  I think so.  IRENE:  Might be.  Not, grumpy, you know, or nothing, just be who you are and what you are.  Like they always know when you're cheerful and that. Sometimes those girls used to make me laugh, when someone we know comes all the time and they see that person, then you start to hear them, oh, no.  And I -- and I smile to her and smile and you'd -- you know.  WILLA:  One time I called the director of Village Health Services, and I was -- one day I was having a hard time.  Seemed like everything -- I came to work and I was in a happy mood.  The phone would ring right in the middle, and there was nobody -- no one else to answer the phone but me, so I'd have to answer the phone.  And then one o'clock, one patient came in and I wasn't too happy to see him because I knew -- I knew what kind of a personality he had.  After that -- after he left, I called the director of village health services and asked her, how did she take care of the patients that she knew were not easy to take care of or to see. She told me she prayed before she would go in.  And she would go in knowing that they were -- whoever was there, was there to see her, so she would give them the best care that she can.  So that was kind of how I ended up seeing those people that were -- that were not easy to see.  And I try not to take whatever problems they had, make them -- make them my problems.  And I think it helped.  For me, it helped to realize that people made their own choices.  We could give them a lot of advice and tell them -- let them know their options or let them come up with their own options as well, but in the end, they made their own choice.  And it kind of made things a lot easier for me.  They -- people do make their own choices.  And it -- and it wasn't always what we wanted them to do.  IRENE:  And I, you know, trying to stay away from that "I told you so."  You know.  I told you so.  WILLA:  Yeah.  That's a hard -- that's -- because they -- they make their own choices and they live with them.   One of the -- like Irene said, when we wanted to, when we want to say "I told you so."  It doesn't make things any better.  KAREN:  Well, yeah.  And how you deal with the "I told you so" when it ends up with a death.  WILLA:  And that, I think, is really hard.  I would think that's really hard.  IRENE:  Uh-hum.  But you know, sometimes knowing that you talked to them and stuff (inaudible) that would kind of help you, too.  Knowing that you said, you know, what's to be said.  And for our young people, when they lose -- like when they lose their limlee (phonetic), there was one that at home that lost this little boy last year, was that?  He was having a hard time.  He couldn't -- he couldn't erase the things of his little boy away from him for a long time.  I don't know how he is now.  But we always go to him and support, he's got support all right.  KAREN:  That's good.  IRENE:  He said last year, every morning he went hunting, his mom used to worry about him so much, and I used to talk to her.  When he came back, he said, you know, mom, I was going to -- you know, he had guns and stuff when he was hunting.  He said he was thinking of doing away with himself, but then he thought about his little boy and he started praying, and when -- you know, he wanted God to show him, to show him, you know, that his little boy was up in heaven.  Out in the country. And when he looked up, he saw -- he saw how many, six or seven wolves walking.  And then not long after he caught a caribou.  You know.  And he was having a hard time catching a caribou.  So he went home happy.  He done a lot of grieving, too.  So we have to try to help them.  They are friends.

KAREN:  What about the other side, the success, the good times, the happy times when you did something that really saved somebody? IRENE:  Oh, that's a good feeling, huh?  Hallelujah, that's a good feeling. WILLA:  Irene told me one time, she said, she reported this labor, and she tried telling the doctor she was in labor, and she ended up escorting this lady and she did. IRENE:  I escorted her myself.  WILLA:  And in that case, you were right, she was really trying to let the doctor know this lady was really in labor.  What did he -- IRENE:  He said, oh, sometimes women, before they get to nine months or so, you know, they get these pains like what they call Braxton Hicks. WILLA:  Yeah. IRENE:  They get pains and they are not really in pain.  But doctor, she's in labor.  And he never listened.  So a plane, I chartered the plane myself.  WILLA:  And brought her in. IRENE:  Yeah.  And 20 minutes later she delivered.  And then one of the ladies that's now living at Point Hope came to me, Irene, you don't have to pay for the charter, the hospital will.  Oh, I was so happy, too.  I went to see -- I went in there to see, that was my niece.  I went there to see her, and the doctor wouldn't even look at me.  He was measuring the baby and weighing the baby.  I came in real happy.  Knowing what -- you know, what happened.  I was so happy.  It was one of my success stories, too. KAREN:  What about you, Willa, a success story?  WILLA:  I can't think of any right now, but -- IRENE:  Some of them are, you know, knowing what we gave them could have been really -- you know, we end up laughing, but we are always so happy, we get to feel real light inside.  WILLA:  Sometimes it's people that are not even related to health care that really have helped.  I brought in a patient one time and the patient wasn't doing really -- really well, and I know he couldn't afford an ambulance.  I told the pilot that when we got there, we would take a cab.  But by then, the patient was really bad.  The guy that came to me just -- he wasn't from the hospital or anywhere, he was one of the guys that was working out in Nome -- Nome airport, part of the airlines that took us in.  He picked us -- he took us there, put us in the back of the car, and took us all the way to the emergency dorm.  And I'm so thankful for -- he ended up being -- going right to the emergency room.  But those kinds of people, things that are so unexpected, I'd be so thankful for people that would go out of their way to help.  IRENE:  Another success stories are those with cancer, like women with breast cancer and cervical cancer.  There's -- when they -- after their surgery, we send them down and go to Fairbanks, Anchorage, wherever they are from, but I had maybe one, two, three -- one was diagnosed with breast cancer and the other one cervical cancer.  No, two of them.  And another one.  But then they made it and one of them died of old age.  No, two of them died of old age.  And there's one still living that had breast cancer.  She's a survivor.  And another old, old lady, I sent her in for a lump here, it was cancerous, so she was from Fairbanks, they send her there, and they took it out.  I never did see her after.  I heard she wanted to see me, to thank me.  So.  So three of them are down through old age.  KAREN:  That's great.  IRENE:  There's one, she talks to people that -- you know, that are diagnosed about what went wrong with her and stuff.  That is so good.  KAREN:  Lucky, it sounds like you caught it early.  IRENE:  Yeah, I used to measure lumps first, measure them, and then another week later measure, and as soon as they got bigger, then we brought them back in -- WILLA:  Oh, yeah. IRENE:  Before they get any bigger.  That's when they started checking themselves, too, when they notice lumps, you know, after we show them how to check for lumps.  So.  WILLA:  I have pictures whenever you want to look. KAREN:  Yeah, I was thinking we should.