Veteran Stories:
Nina Rumen


  • The Memory Project, Historica Canada
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My name is Nina Rumen. I was a nursing sister in the R.C.A.M.C. and then C.F.M.S. from '51 to '74.

My first posting was in Kingston, Ontario, in 1951. I was assigned to a lovely lady who died just recently, and the first thing she asked me to do was to give penicillin to twenty-five young men at the back of this surgical ward. Well, of course I knew how to give penicillin. "Why are they having it?" "Because the doctor prescribed it." "Why did he prescribe it?" "Because they have gonorrhea!" We didn't have outpatients in those days and they had to be given every three hours, so there were twenty-five bottoms up. And they were quite literally prisoners there, because they were in the army and they had to do as they were told. The song, "I'm a prisoner of love," was popular in '51, and they called themselves the, "Prisoners of Love."

Another posting that I had was to Churchill, Manitoba, at the Hudson Bay, and the C.D. Howe medical hospital ship went out there to tell the natives - the Eskimos, we didn't have Inuits in those days - what they needed. They decreed that every plane that went up to an Eskimo settlement that they would bring pregnant women to Churchill military hospitals. And we had quite a few "Ladies in Waiting."

It was important for medical people to know when their expected due date was, but we couldn't speak Eskimo and they couldn't speak English. So we got the Catholic priest who spoke Eskimo and he would ask them when their baby was due. They would hold up their fingers, and we would have a ruler and measure, and they would say, "When the ice is so thick." So we would measure it and phone the meteorologist, and it was very effective.

A young Eskimo was expecting her first baby, and she was a beautiful young woman. In the middle of the night I was called because I was on call for all maternity and obstetrics 24x7. So I got this woman on a stretcher, took her from the ward, and managed to get her transferred from the stretcher to the delivery table by myself. And I was trying to get her feet up in stirrups for delivery. The nurse on duty was calling the medical officer, Bob Elliot. He was there very shortly afterwards, and she was still resisting this business of having her legs put up in stirrups. So Bob came in. I said to him, "Bob, would you just keep an eye on her? She's resisting the stirrups. I'll get ready for delivery because she's ready to go." I sort of turned my back to deal with what I had to do, and she slipped the delivery table and squatted in the corner. And Bob Elliot was... he believed in showing, so he gets up in stirrups. And in the meantime I was watching her. She was laughing away, gave one grunt, and I caught the baby with her squatting in the corner. So of course the next day I didn't keep my mouth shut. I told everybody what happened. There were a number of young doctors there who said, "Bob, you may be our boss, you may be senior, but we have to tell you... It's the Patient that goes up in stirrups, Not the Doctor!"

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