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Clara Morgan
Clara Morgan

Clara Morgan was interviewed on November 9, 2005 by Karen Brewster in a quiet reflection room at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Although Clara was from the village of Aniak, this interview was conducted in Anchorage because she was there with her husband, William "Billy" Morgan, while he received medical treatment. The interview was rushed, because Clara did not want to be away from him for too long. In the interview, Clara talks about being an early health aide and volunteering for ten years before she got paid, the training she received, working out of her home before there was a clinic, and flying to villages for medevacs. She also talks about communicating with the doctors, memorable cases she dealt with, the shift from federal government to Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation management, and having the clinic in Aniak named after her.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2004-17-24

Project: Community Health Aide Program
Date of Interview: Nov 9, 2005
Narrator(s): Clara Morgan
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, University of Alaska Health Programs
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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


Some background on her life and how she became a health aide.

An overview of her career as a health aide, then as a supervisor-instructor, and the evolution of the clinic at Aniak into a sub-regional clinic.

The beginning and end of her health care career, and how communications changed over time.

Some of the illnesses and injuries she treated as a health aide.

The increase in the incidence of accidents in the village, and helping to deliver babies.

How she and others dealt with deaths and loss in the village.

Mentors and teachers who taught her and inspired her.

The difficulties of being a health aide, such as finding childcare and money worries.

How being a health aide has affected her life, and some information on patient transport.

Some emergency situations she was faced with

A funny story about making a house call, and a word of encouragement to young people considering a career as a health aide.

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.


KAREN:  Today is November 9th, 2005, and this is Karen Brewster, here with Clara Morgan, and we're here at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage where she's visiting but lives in Aniak.
And that's where you did all your community health aide work?
CLARA:  Uh-hum (affirmative). 

KAREN:  Okay.  And this is for the Community Health Aide Project.
And just to kind of get things started a little bit, Clara, thank you for taking the time to do this.  I know you're very busy today.  

Just sort of tell us a little bit about yourself, when you were born, where, how you got into health aide work.  

CLARA:  I was born a few miles down from Lower Kalskag in our winter camp, March 19, 1940, so my mother put our -- my place of birth at Kalskag.  
Getting into the health aide work was 1958, Dr. Jackson Shirmer, she now lives in Wrangell, she used to live in Bethel, she was a PHS, Public Health Service doctor.  And she made trips up to Aniak.  

On one of her trips she was looking for people who would want to volunteer to do medical work.  So Billy and I, my husband, William Morgan, and I, we volunteered, in 1958.  

And on that same trip, she was seeing about a five-month-old child with pneumonia.  And at that time, you had to mix your penicillin with distilled water, just powder.  So she showed us how to give the penicillin shot.
The first day we went there, she showed us how to do it, and the second day we went there, Billy did the shot, and then the third day we went there, I did the shot, and the next day she was gone. 

So it was -- in the villages, BIA teachers used to pretty much take care of the health when they came to the village.  And there was a lady there named Muriel Leech who took care of some supplies at the Aniak Lodge, and when anyone got sick or cut or anything, needed attention, she used to do that. 

So Billy and I volunteered for 10 years doing the medical work.  And in 196 -- 1968, the -- the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation program was starting.  And they wanted health aide people to -- who wanted to be health aides to go to training.  

Well, at first when the people -- and all this volunteer time Billy and I did with no pay.  Then when they heard that there was going to be the health -- health person was going to be paid, there was a whole bunch that wanted -- wanted to be health aide.
In 1968, December 1968, we had our seventh child, and I told Billy, 10 years of volunteering, I said, I'm tired of it, let somebody else take it.  

And so as soon as they found out that they had to go to four weeks of training being away from home, and nobody wanted to, nobody wanted to go, so the chief then was Louis Vanderpool in Aniak, and he came to us twice.  And the second time he came Billy said, well, why not give it a try.  So I said okay.  

And in February 1960 -- let's see.  April 1969, I went to my first training, four weeks in Bethel.  Our youngest daughter was four months old.  I took her along because we had a couple of nieces in Bethel that would take -- we had no phones or anything, no -- you know, no communication before going down to call to make the plans with her baby-sitting and all that, but it turned out good.  

I'd take her to the -- our niece's in the morning, and then I'd pick her up in the afternoon about 5:00, a little after 5:00 after the training, for a whole month.  I can't even remember how I got rides to -- to do that.  So, and that was when I got my first four weeks of training. 

There was no clinic in Aniak, so I was working out of my house.  After I went home from my training, Billy and our neighbor, an old guy we took care of, Rayfield Qupuanak, he built a little plywood cabinet for me and put a padlock on it and a few -- few supplies that they gave us we kept in there locked, the stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, and all that.

CLARA: So in 1970, PHS got one of the FAA buildings, Federal Aeronautics Administration buildings to use as a clinic.  And supplied it with a doctor and his wife.  His wife was his -- was his helper.  And I felt I wasn't needed and I -- I didn't go join them or anything.  And kept a little stuff I had at home with me. 

And pretty soon they got a letter from Bethel that I needed to be there and work with them.  So I moved all that stuff back to the clinic and started in 19 -- it was around July, I think, in 1970, started working at the clinic.  They called it the District Clinic.
And the doctor was there a couple years, and then they put another doctor there in one year, and then another doctor.  And by 1974, they had a paramedic there, too.  Over at the clinic.
When he was leaving, they took all the charts out, sent them to Bethel.  Pretty much closed it as a District Clinic to cover the 13 villages by Aniak.  
And there was an advanced health aide working with me, Nellie Joshua.  So she worked with me from early -- early '75 to about September '76, and left Aniak and left me alone there as a health aide there. 

Later on, they hired other health aides for me to work with or to work with me.  And so that went on for years. 

I picked up a lot from the doctors when they were there, stationed in Aniak.  We'd go out, and the flying services are out of Aniak, the planes used to come and taxi in front of the clinic, bringing patients in or picking me up to go out to a village.  

I flew to some villages in medevacs, pick a patient up, bring them to Aniak, check them there, call Bethel, and then fly them out to Bethel, the charter from Aniak, and then I called and let them know we're on our way down, have somebody, the ambulance come out to -- someone to get their patient.  Ask me a few questions, I tell them, and then I get back on the plane and fly home.  That was really convenient having the flying services in Aniak.  So that was pretty much that. 

And then in 1982, I pretty much had a health problem and got out of it for about 18 months.  And then they wanted me, asking me to go back as a supervisor instructor of health aides with the YKHC. 

So they said part time and -- and part time health aide to work with the new health aides that were for Aniak.  So I did that until -- part time for one year, and then in '83, became a full-time supervisor and got some villages.
After I got four villages to travel to, it was just getting harder to work with the health aides there, and not do my work with the supervising through communication with the villages, so all our kids were grown up and our youngest was, oh, about seven or eight years old.  

And so we had an extra room in the house and I asked them if I could use that for an office, had no distractions of little kids around and stuff.  So I did that.  

For 10 years I had an office at my house.  And then they built the Sub-Regional Clinic and made a place available for me there at the Sub-Regional Clinic for about 20 years.  We were trying, Billy and I and other people, to get Sub-Regional Clinic at Aniak, and it just kept falling through, just when things are going to get done.  

So finally they worked through YKHC and the village councils in the 13 villages it covers and we got that clinic. 

KAREN:  Does it cover the villages upriver and around the area?  

CLARA:  Aniak is the hub of these villages.  So I moved my office to the Sub-Regional Clinic.  

And when the clinic was done, they said, what are they going to name it, so they said, well, the best thing is to send out letters to the -- the village councils that the clinic covers.  And have them pick the name for the Sub-Regional Clinic.  And they came back with Clara Morgan Sub-Regional Clinic.  So everybody says you have your clinic.  Well --  

KAREN:  How did that make you feel, having it named after you?
CLARA:  It made me feel good.  Uh-hum.  That they appreciated all those years.  And it was good to -- being in the Sub-Regional Clinic, having my office there, because I saw the people that came in from the villages.  And got to know them pretty well traveling for 18 years as a supervisor instructor to the villages.  

And before that is when I was a health aide, problem shooting in villages, I'd go out with whoever came up from YKHC, I'd fly over to a village with them.  
If they had a problem with the council getting a health aide, I and a health aide would go out and help them and interview them and stuff.  So that worked good.

CLARA:  So in June, middle of June in 2001 or 2002 -- 2002, just out of the blue I thought, well, this is enough, I think I'm ready to leave.  So I retired December 29th, it would be three years come December since I retired from being a supervisor instructor.
KAREN:  What -- what was your maiden name?
CLARA:  Baldwin.  

KAREN:  When did you and Billy get married?
CLARA:  November 26, 1958.  I have an anniversary coming up.  47 years. 
KAREN:  What inspired you and him to volunteer when that nurse was asking you to help?  

CLARA:  That doctor, she was just pretty pushy.  Well, she said she walked around town and asked -- asked people and asked the council, asked teachers and who they thought, you know, would be good to -- to ask.
And they gave them some names, and I guess the other ones didn't want to do it, so she came to us.  And we didn't have any kids then.  So we just said we'll give it a try.  And just kept on from there. 

KAREN:  Uh-hum.  

CLARA:  As we went along, we saw the need for someone to be doing that.  Kids get sick and people get hurt.  Help them out. 

But before the -- the District Clinic opened, we pretty much didn't have anything.  Excuse me.  When the -- when we had to make calls to the Bethel Hospital, we ran across the airfield to the -- one of the FAA stations and talked to Bethel on their radio phone.  And yeah.  

I think we didn't got a phone until -- it was in the early '60s, I think -- no, early '70s when we finally got a phone.  

KAREN:  In other communities I know they had regular radio call with doctors. 

CLARA:  Yeah.  Uh-hum. 

KAREN:  Did you have that in Aniak?  
CLARA:  Uh-hum (affirmative).  We had -- in the District Clinic, we had one of those old northern radios.  And Bethel would take the traffic from the villages, and if they couldn't hear the upper villages, I'd get on the radio and, you know, talk with the village and pass it on to Bethel and like that.  And then when we couldn't get ahold of Bethel, we would call Knaknak, they had a good radio, reception.  

KAREN:  You could reach Dillingham but you couldn't reach Bethel sometimes?  

CLARA:  Yeah.  Sometimes we couldn't.  I don't know why.  Maybe the winds in Bethel.  So yeah. 

And then now when the doctors were there, they did the traffic to the upper river villages.  And then when the paramedic was there, he did the same, and after he left, I pretty much stuck with it of getting on there when I heard anybody talking and they couldn't get Bethel.  

Then sometimes just on before the villages got their phones, take everything down from the radio, and then call them on the phone and do that.  Always busy.  

KAREN:  What was that like doing everything by radio?
CLARA:  It was good.  Sometimes we talked about it to health aides when we had health aide conference, you know.  It seemed like it was better with the radio because we heard our coworkers' voices and who they were.  On the telephone, you just hear whoever you're talking to.  It was good.  It was fun.  

When the river in the spring started breaking up, I used to get on the radio early in the morning, 7:30, to the channel, you know, it wasn't shut off, anybody could listen on those radios if they had one, you know, and I'd call upper river villages and get a report on the ice condition and their breakup. 
So it was fun.

KAREN:  So in the '50s when you were doing all this before you really had training.

 CLARA:  Uh-hum (affirmative). 

KAREN:  How did you take care of people?
CLARA:  Just come natural, I guess.  When you had a sick baby, you know, you just -- they have a fever, you know, they need to get the fever down.  I don't know.  

It just -- my mother, a lot of people used to go to her in Kalskag and in Aniak.  She -- she picked up quite a bit from my dad, he was from Minnesota.  And she learned a lot of, you know, what she brought back with him.  So it just -- I don't know.  It just came natural, I guess. 

KAREN:  Can you remember some of the kinds of things you had to deal with, treat people for?  

CLARA:  Well, babies having high fever.  At one time there was a baby and there was just a big storm, blizzard, planes couldn't fly.  No way to get ahold of Bethel.  

And this kid, I don't know how old he was, maybe six or seven months old, and real croupy cough, and didn't know about croup then, so what I did was set up a pot of boiling water and sit under a tent with a blanket over us, and get him steamed that way.  

And his fever would come up, and then you give him -- at that time we were giving aspirin.  Didn't have Tylenol then.  And get too hot and just cool -- cool sponging, wiping down, cool rag, keep his temperature down. 

It's -- it's really hard, especially with young parents, their first child, and this -- it seemed like it wasn't helping.  And but we just have to hope it does.  
And turned out next day they -- it was -- the weather was good enough to fly to Bethel, and the mother took the baby down to Bethel.  

And people getting cuts and just cleaning them up, wrapping them up, and changes.  

There was one guy that was opening up a pressure cooker, he didn't wait for the steam to go down, and he was hammering the -- the handle to open a cupboard, and a neighbor of his heard a big boom, and looked out his door, and there was steam coming out of this house, he thought it was a fire.  And he ran over there and here this guy got all burnt from the steam. 

And so it wasn't far from our house, he took him over, so I had to clean his burns and -- and dress them.  He would have to come to my house every day for -- for dressing change.  His arms and hands, blistered.  So just -- just keep them clean and aspirin for pain.  

After -- after going to training, they gave more -- more supplies and medication.  The first guide book they gave me was about maybe a quarter of an inch thick, and now the Community Health Aide CHAM involves two books, about three inches thick, two to three inches thick.  

KAREN:  Each. 

CLARA:  Each, for their, you know, guidelines and stuff.  Medications and how much to give.
KAREN:  Well, that's why I'm wondering about the training and how you learned how to do -- 

CLARA:  And the little book -- uh-hum (affirmative).  And the little book was just like for otitis media, what you do, a common cold, headache, earache.  Just, you know, those main things that we knew about then before all the other complicated stuff come out.

KAREN:  What did you do when there was an accident or an emergency situation?
CLARA:  It seemed like we never had to -- well, we never had the accidents we were having today.

 KAREN:  Uh-hum. 

CLARA:  You know, people -- people used dogs, dog sleds to get around.  At that time, there was no snow machines.  No motorcycles.  A few people had -- mainly the businesses had trucks.  

If somebody get hurt, then you get more response by people running around and getting the help and now calling on the phone.  

So it -- they had a Health Council before we got started of two people on Health Council, and we used to do fund-raising, donating money to get the supplies and stuff that were needed before the health aide training started.  Did that.  

KAREN:  Was there ever like a plane crash, a boating accident or anything that you had to deal with?  

CLARA:  No.  Not -- not during that time.  There was years later after the District Clinic was open, there was a DC-3 or something that was taking off from Aniak, and I don't know what happened, and flew it off the runway into the brush, but there was just a pilot in there, you know, just like hauling freight or something.  No passengers in there.  And nobody got hurt in that.

 KAREN:  Uh-hum.  But in your later years as a health aide, did you have some -- 

CLARA:  Oh, yeah, after, like after the -- the doctors were there and left and the paramedic, and then have pretty much more accidents, gunshot wounds, knife cuts, broken -- broken bones, legs or whatever.  Yeah.
KAREN:  Did you have one in particular that stands out in your mind that maybe was the scariest, your first one or something?  

CLARA:  Yeah.  There was a -- a guy where, what we call across the slough that shot himself in the head.  But it -- it didn't kill him.  So I just had help from whoever was around to help me. 

Got him over to the -- the clinic we were using.  Did what I could there to dress his head and do his vitals and get him across.  It was -- and it was in the fall time.  

Got him to the clinic and called down to Bethel and then had to medevac him down.  He came back okay.  He was kind of paralyzed on the left side from that.  But he was okay.  

KAREN:  It's amazing that -- 

CLARA:  Uh-hum (affirmative).  That is.  A lot of others.  Delivering babies.  

KAREN:  Talk about delivering babies.  

CLARA:  Before I got the training, or well, it was in sixty -- yeah, before I got the training, in 1967, the midwife was Marie Nikolai, and so that was when I was working as a medical aide.
So I went with her just to be there and observe and help with whatever she needed.  She had all this stuff that, you know, they didn't have the clamps for the umbilical cord and all that, so boil up some string and the scissors and whatever.  

And then we never used to go to Bethel for checkups, you know, we got pregnant and carried them nine months and deliver in the village. 

So this lady, she went into labor, and then I was there with the midwife, and then one -- one baby was born and -- and the midwife herself had had twins before.  And the baby came out and the lady still looked big, and then the midwife said, there's another one in there.  

And you could just watch as it turned, you know.  The baby came out head first, number one.  The second one you could just see the baby turning, you know, to come out.  It's two twin girls, March 17th.  They were born two days before my birthday.  

So I helped with that.  And delivered I don't know how many between, maybe six.  

One time, one or two times I didn't have any help.  I had -- I had a clinic and I delivered them there.  That one right after the baby was born, the midwife and nurse came in from Bethel, landed just after the baby was born.  Checked him and brought the mom and baby to Bethel.  

The last delivery I helped with at the clinic were twin boys.  So I started off with twin girls, and end up with doing twin boys.  

And the mother was a month early.  She was just getting ready to, the next day, to go to Bethel, and then she went into labor.  And the doctor made it up to Aniak but he just was there, you know, just watching us, myself and a couple other health aides delivering there.  

I was there holding this little baby coming out and the health aide went to get the bulb, you know, to suction out his mouth, and while she was doing that, something started coming out, I thought it was the placenta, and then I said, there's legs, there's two of them.  Here this little guy came out head first, and his little brother couldn't wait and he started coming out same time, so there I was with these two little babies.  They were tiny.  They survived.  

They -- the mother went to Bethel with them.  And they are about 10 years old now, I think.  10 or 11. 

Yeah.  It -- it was -- you know, it's -- when you lose someone, you know, it's sad and stuff, but when you deliver a baby, it's so happy.  So joyful bringing another life, you know, new life.

KAREN:  So how did you deal with the losing people?
CLARA:  Drink.  Yeah.  It was hard.  

KAREN:  Yeah.  That's what I was wondering, too, being a health aide --

CLARA:  Not all the time. 

KAREN:  -- in the village that you're from. 

CLARA:  Uh-hum.  Yeah.  It's really hard, you know.  And for the health aides, too, in their villages, everybody's related, whether they are biologically or not, you know.  Everybody knows everybody.  

And depends on how the person dies.  If they are terminally ill, you know, you know they are going to go sometime, and the family kind of prepares for it, you know.  But sudden deaths are, you know, you don't know, especially if it's from drowning or -- or a bad accident or shootings.  But those are -- are the hard ones, you know.  

They are -- now with the counselors and stuff, they can do debriefing and help the whole village by going out to the villages and do debriefing with -- with the family and with the community.  I think that helps the most.  To have them get out how they feel and -- and be able to talk about their feelings and how they feel about their loss.  

KAREN:  Is that something that you did as a health aide, how you dealt with it?  How did you -- 

CLARA:  There's people there, like elders that we'd get to go and talk to the family, you know, that lose someone.  We pretty much turned to -- to the elders, you know, before all this come out.  

And then in -- some villages they have groups where they have their own meetings and things, and when anybody needs debriefing and stuff after loss, they are available.  They involve younger people and elders in there, too.  

KAREN:  Yeah, I mean, because anybody that loss is hard, but I was thinking as a health aide, you might have to deal with it on a much more frequent basis.  

CLARA:  Uh-hum (affirmative).  Because, you know, you're taking care of the person --

 KAREN:  Right.  

CLARA:  -- and losing them, you know, affects you, too, like, and then you have to deal with that, the family, and then the siblings. 

KAREN:  For years and years, you did this for a long time, how did you manage to keep doing it?  

CLARA:  I don't know.  I don't know.  Just -- like when you have an accident, you don't stop and think, what am I going to do, it just comes natural.  You just do -- do what's needed.  And then afterwards, when it's all done, you sit back and that's when it hits you.  Yeah.

KAREN:  Was there any along the way, any particular people who inspired you, were mentors, were important teachers to you?
CLARA:  Well, there was Dr. Jackson Shirmer.  She's doing it, got us going.  Women that helped out like in deliveries or helped out before there was any health care were my mother, her name was Olinka Gregory.  And another one was Anna Mary Simeon.  Mary Cutter.  Marie Nikolai, she was a midwife.  
And there was an elder lady just using traditional medicine on -- on one of our boys when he was small, Mary Anne McKinley.  

Our oldest boy, he had -- he was -- he got snow blindness, you know, in the spring when it starts getting bright, the sun off the snow.  His eyes were red and runny.  

And she went and got a little spruce tree, a young spruce tree and peeled the bark off of the end and made it real sharp, and using pliers, dropped the juice of that in his eyes.  

And there's other traditional medicines that they -- that they use or, you know, that they had used themselves.  There's a popular one is what they called the wormwood, stinkweed.  They use that for different things.  They make it into a tea and drink it to cleanse themselves, and cleaning out.  
And the main thing I used -- saw my mother using it for was like a poultice, the dry -- the dry leaves, when they are dry and crispy, you rub them together and get all that leaf, and it just leaves a cottony, cottony ball there. 

Then put a little shortening in that to keep it together.  And that from the heat, like when they had boils or infected cuts, they put that on there and wrapped it up, and that helps to pull out the infection and the boils.  That's -- that's just a famous one that I always use.

 KAREN:  And what's the Yup'ik word for that?  

CLARA:  Caiggluk.  (Chai-thluk). 

KAREN:  Caiggluk.  

CLARA:  Uh-hum (affirmative).  

KAREN:  Yeah.  In your work as a health aide, did you use traditional medicine as well as the Western things?  

CLARA:  No.  Not -- not in the clinic.  Not in the clinic.  But at home, or telling -- telling people, you know, it would be a good thing to use.  So.  Yeah.

KAREN:  What was the hardest thing for you about being a health aide?
CLARA:  Well, a lot of hard times was when I was going to training, leaving seven kids at home.  It's hard -- hard to find anyone to -- to take care of seven kids.  My husband was working.  

There was just one lady, mostly, that I remember that used to help us, Mary Abruska.  When I was in here in Anchorage for my second training, for four weeks, she -- and then she was a neighbor and she pretty much watched the kids when he was working, and -- and then they were in school, the ones of school age were in school, you know, most of the day.  So it made it easier.  

But if no one comes around, and our oldest daughter Linda, when I first went to training, she was 8 years old, and she swore she'd never have any kids after -- after always having to take care of her brothers.  Yeah.  

KAREN:  And what -- what kind of a work schedule did you have? 

CLARA:  When I was working out of my house, there was no schedule.  
This -- and there was no phone to call, so it was just come, anything, just come to the house.  

And then later on when we finally got a phone, they'd -- they'd call and I'd let them know to come over.  We just had a two-bedroom house, and our two-room house, and our bedroom was small and pretty much in there.  My exam table was my bed.  Yeah.  

KAREN:  So -- 

CLARA:  But after the -- the clinic opened, there was a schedule of like I used to go -- the doctor and his wife were there and they did their stuff, but I used to go to work at 9:00 in the morning 'til -- 'til noon, go home for lunch, and then go back until five o'clock.  

And it didn't seem far then, you know, when we walked.  We didn't have the vehicle and things to transportation.  And our house is pretty far down from where the clinic was.  It was no problem walking home for lunch and walking back again.  Walking home for lunch and feeding all the kids and stuff, the ones that weren't in school.

 KAREN:  Uh-hum.  I know in some places people have talked about as health aide, you were on call 24 hours a day? 

CLARA:  Uh-hum (affirmative). 

KAREN:  7 days a week.  

CLARA:  Yep.  You're on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 30 days a month, when you're the only health aide there.  And then pretty soon you come up with a schedule after YK came on was health aides alternating covering the weekends.  Alternating being on call after hours during the week.  And that -- that worked out for those that still had more than one health aide.  

KAREN:  In those early days before you were paid and you were a volunteer, how did you balance your family and being a health aide or medical aide?  

CLARA:  I don't know.  I don't know.  My husband was working for the airlines, it was Northern Consolidated Airlines, and then later on Wien came in.  He worked for the airlines.  

And I didn't start getting money until I got trained and working.  The first check I got was $240 for a month.  AVCP was paying us.  

Some -- some health aides would wait three or four months before they got paid, and the pay came from St. Mary's, and the guys still remember now when I used to call, where's my check?  And we didn't have as many airlines, you know.  

KAREN:  Right.  

CLARA:  And I don't know, if -- if you couldn't afford it, you didn't have it.  Subsistence, mainly subsistence life.  But it seems like the more money you make, the more you spend, the further and more bills you get. 

KAREN:  Yeah, with seven children you had a lot to --

KAREN:  Were there ever times when you wanted to quit the job, quit?
CLARA:  Well, then, you know, when they want to start training the health aides, I wanted to get off as a volunteer medical aide, I didn't want to go on.  
We had all our kids and -- but a lot of times when I ended up working alone, being the only health aide, it was hard to -- it's hard in the villages to get someone that's interested in it for the work.  

Pretty much now is they need the money, they need to -- you know, if you don't have the money, you have no living.  

KAREN:  Yeah.  What about -- the best thing about being a health aide, what did you like best?  Why did you --

 CLARA:  Best thing I liked about being health aide was helping the people, see them recovering from -- you know, you see some pretty sick people and babies, especially.  And seeing them recover and they up and running around again.  

That's -- and delivering babies, new life.  Yeah.  That's -- that's the -- I just, you know, it's just in me.  It came naturally that I -- and I -- that's the only job I'd have, you know.

 KAREN:  Yeah.  

CLARA:  I never looked for a better paying other job.  This is what I knew and this is what I wanted.  

KAREN:  So how would you say having been a medical aide and health aide, all that work, how that affected your life? 

CLARA:  It affected my life.  You know, it's not easy for a man to stay home and watch kids and cook for them after coming home from work, and for four weeks, it was hard.  We had a lot of arguments.  But I hung onto it. 

KAREN:  How did it affect you personally?  Who you are as a person?  

CLARA:  I never thought of it.  I don't know  as a person.  I don't know.  I liked what I was doing.  A little fight now and then didn't stop me from doing it.  I always wondered how it affected the family and the kids, you know, being -- being gone all those times.  

KAREN:  Have the kids ever talked about it? 

CLARA:  No.  No.  Until our last -- last -- last child, I was in Bethel for a week of meeting, and then from Bethel I -- I was one of them picked to go to Atlanta, Georgia, for a worldwide Public Health gathering they had there.  
And she said -- and I didn't go home first and then leave, I left from Bethel.  So I was gone for two weeks.  

Before I left from Bethel and I called home, she said, well, do you have to go?  I said, I guess I don't have to go, but they picked me to go, so -- and this is something I, you know, I'll never be able to do.
I said, I could ask my supervisor if -- if I can just cancel it and come home.  And she said, but it's your work.  So she survived. 

KAREN:  Yeah.  You mentioned going on medevacs to the villages?  

CLARA:  Uh-hum (affirmative).  

KAREN:  Can you talk a little bit about that. 

CLARA:  Just starting the clinics in the villages, even before they had clinics in the villages, they didn't have the supplies needed, you know, like the stretchers and stuff.  

So at our clinic in Aniak, we had stretchers, they say what kind of condition it is, what we are going to get is put a stretcher on there and a trauma box, everything that's needed, blankets, or sleeping bags or, you know, whatever you need to -- to take care of the problem and medevac them out of the village, you know, warm and things.  

Those planes are small.  185, 175 -- 185 I think they called them.  Just the pilot and the passenger, and then two more seats in the back, they take those out if we need to do a stretcher.  And a stretcher would just fit in there.  So had stuff there at the clinic to -- to take out. 

KAREN:  So did you bring those to Aniak?  

CLARA:  Bring the patient -- uh-hum.  

KAREN:  Bring those straight to Aniak? 

CLARA:  Depending upon the condition, bring them to Aniak, or just go direct to Bethel from -- from the village.

CLARA:  One time I -- I was just telling this lady when she told me this girl was going to have a baby, and -- and I was thinking, I wonder if that's the one I saw when she was a little girl.  I went up to her village to pick up a lady that was pregnant and losing her water, we flew to Aniak, the plane taxied right up to the clinic. 

Just when I went in, the phone rang, I picked it up, right next door this little girl is choking.  And I put the phone down, I ran out the back door to the house, I picked up the little girl, flipped her over, and my hand on her stomach, slapped her on the back, the candy flew out, and I put her down and run back to the clinic.  And it sounded funny after but it wasn't then.  

KAREN:  No.  And so then did you deliver the baby or did she go on to Bethel?  

CLARA:  She went on to Bethel.  I called Bethel from Aniak and told them I had her there, and we're coming down.  So have them ready with the ambulance and somebody there that can take her, you know, to the hospital, and I'd come right back home.  

Checked on that little girl, yeah, she choked on a candy.  And I'm thinking if that -- somebody told me a few days ago that this girl is going to have a baby.  And I wonder -- I know the family.  I wonder if that was that little girl that was choking on candy.  

KAREN:  But when you were on those medevacs, did you ever have to do anything to the patients on the plane? 

CLARA:  Oh, yeah.  Yeah.  One time it was really rough and -- and this lady, turned out she had an ectopic pregnancy and was bleeding inside, and I just couldn't get an IV started, it was so, so rough flying.  But she made it to Bethel and in time for them to do what they needed to.  

And then another time I was taking one down, I had stayed up all night with him in the clinic.  He came down from the village.  The weather was bad.  Stayed up all night with him in the clinic.  I didn't know what was wrong with him.  Just on his belly was really a red circle.  I never did find out what that was.  

He got -- got him to Bethel and later that afternoon he died.
But he was, like, getting hysterical during the flight.  I had him laying down, he was getting up and reaching for the back door.  I had to -- nothing to -- you know, and they probably wouldn't have let me give him anything anyway to sedate him if -- because they need to know what's wrong with him, how alert he is and stuff.  Scary sometimes. 

KAREN:  Yeah.  I'm very impressed with how people like you did what you did.  

CLARA:  Well, I -- I just, you know, felt it in me that you don't even think of anything when things come up.  You start thinking about it afterwards.  

KAREN:  Yeah. 

CLARA:  Did I do what I needed to do?  Did I do the right thing when they pass away?  

KAREN:  Were you called out in the middle of the night?
CLARA:  Oh, yeah.  A lot of times.  Yeah.  Sick -- sick babies mostly.  
And after we have the clinic, it's very hard for the people at night to get up and bring their kids to the clinic because you've got to weigh them now and everything before reporting them.  And I just tell them, well, if we didn't have the clinic, you would have to bring them out and fly them out to wherever.
So -- because you always think cold, cold weather, getting cold make them worse.  A kid with a fever, take their clothes off and give them a cool bath, oh, God, they are going to get pneumonia or something, you know, but it's -- they don't.  They are already sick.

KAREN:  So you used to -- before there was the clinic, you would go to people's houses? 

CLARA:  Uh-hum (affirmative).  You know, when they couldn't come or somebody would come and tell me there's something wrong with someone, and I'd pack up and go.  

One time there was a boy across the slough in winter, it was right when we started work, and there was a boy across the slough that was sick, must have been about 8 months old.  And we had our first son.  

So my husband went out and he hooked up three dogs for me, the sled.  And so I took what I thought I'd need and went.  And I was only about 20.  And passed the school, and all his old classmates and kids waving and I wave at them.  I went across.  Took care of the kid.  

Come back home, and I was passing the school again, I was waving, and my foot slipped from the runner where you stand, I was dragging.  I was dragging and them kids came out.  They all ran out and helped me get back on the sled.  Sad times and fun times.  

KAREN:  Yeah.  Well, I know you have other things to be doing, so I'd love to sit here and talk with you all day.  

CLARA:  Oh, yeah.  

KAREN:  You have some great stories and memories.  

CLARA:  Uh-hum (affirmative).  

KAREN:  Maybe, who knows, another time will cross and we can do some more.  

But just is there anything else that comes to mind that you've been thinking about that I haven't asked you specific question about, or something you want to say?  

CLARA:  I don't know.  

KAREN:  Okay.  Thank you. 

CLARA:  Well, it's harder -- it seems like it's harder to get health aides, especially in smaller villages, and nobody wants to leave their village to be a health aide in another village.  

Some villages I know don't have -- at least for one doesn't have a health aide, and that another health aide has to float in from another village to -- to cover the clinic.  

And not for every day, every week, it's -- it's like for -- for a week, and then leave and then come back for another week.  Really encourage the young -- the young people to -- to go for it.  Being a health aide is -- is a career in health.  It's like don't think it's just a health aide job.  It's -- it's a career.  And if you like doing the work, you know, you go on for years and get rewarded in the end with your retirement check.  Okay.  

KAREN:  Quyana.