Sad and funny battle tales from nurses on the frontier
Bush Nurses: Inspiring True Stories of Nursing Bravery and Ingenuity in Rural and Remote Australia
Edited by Annabelle Brayley Michael Joseph, 292pp, $29.99 MINER had fallen down an 80-foot drill hole and would need a shot of painkiller before being winched to the top. Carol looked across at me. Would I be prepared to go down a hole that deep via a narrow dirt opening in the ground not much wider than myself?’’
So recalls Audrey Aspeling, retired registered nurse and midwife, in one of the true stories recorded in Bush Nurses.
From ‘‘ baby business’’ in Marble Bar to a sighting of the indigenous ‘‘ tall man’’ hover- ing over a hospital bed somewhere in the Northern Territory; from a horseback sprint through bushfire to reach a patient in 1920s Gippsland to a night flight with the Flying Doctor over ‘‘ the little muddy port of Wyndham’’, this collection is full of battle tales, with all their comedy, farce and sadness.
In the unadorned voices of nurses and allied health practitioners who offer themselves to the far and distant reaches of Australia, we learn of the danger of their jobs, the true sense of community in a remote place, the fear of not coping alone.
In the words of Kari Richter, registered nurse: ‘‘ The many hungry adults of the community stood back, going hungry, putting the feeding of the children first. I saw the disease and starvation of Third World countries present here in Australia. My heart broke and my eyes opened.’’
One of the refrains throughout this book, edited by retired remote area nurse turned writer Annabelle Brayley, is: ‘‘ It’s not about who’s on call, it’s about patient care and helping your mates.’’ Teamwork is a key theme, as are humility and learning from others. One nurse remembers alighting newly minted into a small community where it’s ‘‘ a matter of sink or swim — fast! I was taught to suture on only my second night shift, by the wardsmaid!’’
There are startling images, too: nurses driving ambulance ‘‘ troopies’’ vast distances across desert roads, not knowing what to expect when arriving at the scene of a crash.
And there are snakes, quite a few. One ‘‘ wriggled under our house. We went into the house and turned the air-conditioner on freezing in the hope it would be too cold for it to come inside ... I got kind of used to snakes eventually.’’
Encompassing 100 years of remote area nursing, this book has so many tales to tell. Suddenly coming across a road accident too