Olden Days of Nursing: Travel Adventures

Life of adventures: Former nurse tells stories from medical flights to world travels

  • The Daily Sentinel, May 30, 2021 

The wings of the small plane were icing up and the pilot was nervous.“I’d just as soon have someone up here,” he told Fern DuBose, a flight nurse whose patient was thankfully sleeping at the moment.She joined the pilot for a bit, anxious herself about the plane and her patient. There were so many times like that, DuBose said.

“It was riskier to be involved with that, but the patients needed it,” DuBose said, recalling her days as a flight nurse as story after story from her life spilled out in the safety of her East Orchard Mesa kitchen.

DuBose has had a lot of adventures around the world in her 81 years.

She has visited more than 30 countries, toured hospitals and castles, and walked the Great Wall of China.

She has shared a number of those stories with Doris Burton, a woman she met at church. The two have spoken often over the phone during this past year of the pandemic, as DuBose has checked regularly on Burton.

“She is super energetic, optimistic. She is daring and she knows herself for sure. She is very confident, and she loves the Lord. She’s just been a good friend to me through all this pandemic and everything,” Burton said. “It’s like every time I talk to her, she’s got another story to tell me.”

Those stories, to some extent, began for DuBose in earnest when she became a nurse.

Her two daughters were busy in school and her husband, Earl DuBose, had his work with Colorado West Dairies. Earl’s mother was a nurse, as was a neighbor. DuBose thought it was a fine occupation, so she decided to become a nurse, too.

DuBose got her associate’s degree and then bachelor’s degrees from Mesa College, later receiving her master’s degree in nursing from Central Michigan University.

She started as a staff nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital in 1974. She worked all over the hospital, eventually becoming the director of emergency services and a flight nurse in the days long before a helicopter could land on top of a 12-story tower at the medical center.

Fixed-wing planes were rented by the hospital to fly patients to and from Grand Junction — there wasn’t a cardiologist in the Grand Valley at the time, so “we had to be able to fly people,” DuBose said.

Among her memories from her medical flights is the time a patient needed to be picked up at the airstrip outside Moab, Utah.

It was night and there were no lights. Folks from Moab drove out to light up the runway with their vehicle headlights so the plane could land and take off, she said.

Another time, they picked up a patient who was larger than they expected, and they had to leave a paramedic behind in a mountain town to find his way home, she said.

And with winter, there was ice. Coming into the Grand Junction airport one time, “it was so, so icy that he (the pilot) just slowly edged into a snowbank,” DuBose said.

In 1980, DuBose began adding to her adventures by traveling internationally with Professional Seminar’s Healthcare exchange program. “St. Mary’s was very nice to me” in allowing her the time off to travel, she said.

Her first trip was to China, and she broke her leg during the first outing. Her leg was cast at the hotel using plaster and a bed sheet, and during other outings on that trip, she was taken around in a wooden wheelbarrow.

That wasn’t too fun, she said, but she got to see all kinds of surgeries with acupuncture that were interesting.

The first thing she did when she got back to Grand Junction was to go to the ER and get her leg checked out, she said.

Then she signed up to go to Kenya in 1981. Earl, who was a paramedic, decided to go with her.

They spent time at Kenyatta General Hospital in Nairobi where large rooms were filled with beds. “There were no private areas,” she said.

Patients sometimes had to share a bed, and some surgeries were performed outside.

But during that trip, Earl was bitten by the travel bug and went with her on every trip that followed.

They went to the Soviet Union in 1982 and toured a psychiatric hospital in Moscow among other things. Everyone on the trip was constantly monitored, she said.

They went to Spain with a pediatric group in 1983, and “I had my passport stolen there,” DuBose said.

They traveled so many different places and loved it, she said. They went to Japan and the Philippines and accompanied students and faculty from Wayland Baptist University to the United Kingdom.

However, India was difficult. The Taj Mahal was as beautiful as in pictures, but the poor and dead were just cast along the roads and burning dung filled the air with pollution and stench, she remembered.

Taj Mahal, Wikipedia

One member of their team had a stroke. “It was a very, very hard trip,” DuBose said.

In 1988, she transferred to Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver and was responsible for medical clinics in Granby and Parker.

But her traveling didn’t stop. She and Earl went to Belize to put together a medical clinic with a group from their church and traveled to other places as well.

When the couple retired in 1996, they decided to take their adventures to another level and began leading RV tours with Adventure Caravans. They eventually started their own RV travel business named DuBose Travel Co.

This took them on trips from the Alaska Highway down to Central America. They drove RVs across Europe, around New Zealand and Australia.

Probably the most frightening thing that happened during those RV years was the time she and Earl got locked in a Mexican jail at the border, she said.

They were leading a tour group and, for whatever reason, the Mexican border officials didn’t like their paperwork, she said.

DuBose made such a fuss that they let her out of jail after a couple hours. She thought she would go to the U.S. for help to get Earl out, but then realized she had no money.

She continued her fussing, people started gathering and eventually Earl was allowed to leave after being warned to never come back. Those officials likely were looking for a bribe, DuBose said.

Anyway, they reconnected with their RV group and they all returned to the border the next day where a different group of officials sent them through with no issues, she said.

The last tour the DuBoses led was a 92-day adventure through Mexico and down to Panama and back.

There were 25 RVs on that trip and all but one broke down at some point, she said, recalling mechanical issues as well as the medical situations she dealt with on that trip.

One day, while they were driving through Guatemala, the U.S. military showed up, incredulous that they were there, she said.

“You’re not safe!” they were told, so the DuBoses led their group a different way.

“It was just unbelievable,” she said.

Those were good years, and they met so many people from all over the world, DuBose said.

Earl died in 2014, and DuBose intensely misses her life and travel partner; however, her adventures have not stopped.

She and a best friend and fellow former nurse, whose spouse also had died, traveled together to Ireland in 2015 and then to Cuba a couple years later.

DuBose was planning a trip to Prague when COVID-19 hit and put travel on hold, but as soon as things are safe and open again, DuBose is ready to get back out there.

Prague is still a possibility, and there is plenty of Africa and South America that she hasn’t seen.

“I’d like to go someplace I haven’t been before,” DuBose said.

Alphabet Challenge: W

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

W: West Catchment Area

When I started my job as a nurse practitioner in home care at a Veteran’s hospital outside of Chicago, I had the choice of taking care of patients in the north or west region. The north region was deemed a safer catchment area. The west region, which surrounded Oak Park where I lived, had pockets of crime caused by rampant gang and drug activity. I wanted to be closer to home and stop off for lunch if I was in the neighborhood. I didn’t think twice before choosing the west side. Maybe I thought I was invincible, a city girl used to the gritty streets and boarded up homes. 

I tried to keep my senses sharp and stay alert when I drove through the neighborhoods making my home visits. I kept my distance from the car in front of me in case I needed to make a quick U-turn. I avoided groups of young males loitering on the street corners and always locked the car doors. 

In the long run, it wasn’t just the neighborhood that proved unsafe. Any home I went into could hold danger regardless how dilapidated the outside environs. My close calls, and there were some, depended on the character of those with whom I interacted. 

Still, to this day, I keep my handbag on the floor of the car and out of sight.

Alphabet Challenge: N

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

N: Number 2 Bus

When we moved six years ago, I discovered that the No. 2 bus passed our development twice an hour ending up in downtown Raleigh. I was delighted. I wouldn’t need a car. I wouldn’t worry about a parking space or deal with slow inner city traffic or forget where I eventually did park the car. I even wrote a post (Taking the Bus, December 7, 2014) about the No 2 bus. Furthermore, I wrote in my post that I had a long history of taking mass transportation. 

As a child, my friend, Carol and I would hop a bus in Jersey City for nine cents and get off at the end of the line. Then reboard the bus to retrace our route back home. I don’t remember how long this adventurous behavior lasted or how many bus lines we explored. Over the years, I have chosen busses and trains, when possible, rather than drive long distances. 

Even though I have picked No. 2 Bus as my N topic to fulfill my theme: Places I Have Been,  I must confess that after six years, I still haven’t been on the No. 2 bus. 

Alphabet Challenge

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

Starting Thursday, April 1, I’ll begin to blog about Places I Have Been and every day going forward, except on Sundays, I’ll write a new post using a consecutive letter of the alphabet. I’ll end on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. For A, I’ll write about Aunt Anna’s Apartment. 

It sounds like a fun challenge. I hope you’ll follow my efforts during the month of April.

For more information on the challenge, click here.

Through the Eyes of Nurses

On February 25th in the New York Times, two stories appeared about nurses. Both sobering. Both timely. Both essential.

In my last post, I celebrated the fact that although the pandemic is killing scores of people and putting a strain on resources, including health care personnel, nurses have been in the forefront of the media getting the recognition that they have long deserved. And more nurses are speaking out by telling their stories. Long overdue. 

However, the two stories in the NYT need to be read/viewed. One is by Theresa Brown who I have many times spot-lighted here because of her accurate assessment (my view) of nursing issues. A nurse herself, she has been calling attention to the nursing profession in the media and through her books. 

Brown’s piece: Covid-19 Is “Probably Going to End My Career,” is an exposé of what is terribly wrong in the profession and what should be done. She writes bravely and honestly about the precarious state of organized nursing. 

The second article, One I.C.U. Two nurses with cameras, is written, not by a nurse, but by a photojournalist. He filmed a fifteen-minute video that is raw footage of two nurses working with dying Covid patients in the ICU. Unvarnished, compelling and poignant. It’s a must watch that shows exactly what nurses experience during their shifts.    

I’ve attached the links to both essays. The fifteen-minute video is imbedded in both. 

Covid-19 Is “Probably Going to End My Career 

One I.C.U. Two nurses with cameras

Country Music

I’m not writing my second book whose working title was to be “Home Visits.” The Pandemic has cast a spell on my brain, resulting in lethargy and an inability to focus on structuring another book. So, instead, I’ve decided to take each home visit story and submit it to a literary magazine for potential publication as a “stand-alone” essay. I plan to email one of the stories, Country Music, at the end of this week to an online journal. 

Country Music tells the story of three patients that I cared for when I worked as a nurse practitioner in a home care program at a Veterans Hospital outside of Chicago. They were at various stages of dying. In the late 80s, the hospice movement was just taking baby steps into the medical/nursing world. I was learning about dying and death from my patients and their caregivers. 

The locations of the three patients’ homes lined up perfectly for me to make the visits to them conveniently in the same day. This lasted for about three months. On the day of the story, a dreary, rainy day, I show the challenges I faced working with my three male patients and their wives (few women were enrolled in the VA health care system at that time), how each man played the hand he was dealt and how the women dealt their husband’s decline. 

One of the men loved country music. Talking with him about songs and artists, rekindled my interest in the genre. I found a great country western radio station on my government-issued compact car. The earthy, raw lyrics telling of common human emotions became my therapeutic passenger that accompanied me on my home visits. 

While I am editing this story for submission, I find myself checking into YouTube to listen to the familiar songs that supported me so many years ago. This is more fun than writing that second book. 

Glass Half-Full

Dominated by political turmoil and the COVID-19 Pandemic, this past year has been a roller coaster ride with few brief moments of slow travel interspersed with deep dives of fright and foreboding. The highs that I have enjoyed come in part from the increased attention given to nurses. I have long complained that the nursing profession has been mostly invisible to the public eye, media and policy making sectors. The increase in visibility and status of nurses in these turbulent times looks to me like a glass half-full. 

I celebrate all the recent recognition direct towards nurses. When have nurses spoken up in great numbers for their profession, their practice, their patients and for their contribution to the world-wide challenge to defeat of the COVID-19 Pandemic? When have nurses received so much positive media awareness? Been frequently appointed to expert panels along with physicians and other health care professionals? Interviewed prominently by the news media? Featured favorably on TV shows? 

How much of a coincidence was it that 2020 was designated by the World Health Organization as the Year of the Nurse and the Nurse Midwife? 

In reviewing my posts of the past year, I have pulled out the ones that show increased focus on the nursing profession. I enjoyed revisiting them and am hopeful that the positive attention showered on the nursing profession continues. 

Nurses Gain the Attention They Deserve

Impressive List of Nurse Experts

United Kingdom Nursing Students Work on the Front Lines of the Pandemic

The Power of Nurses

Nursing Students Provide Insights into the Pandemic Media In-Depth Look at Nurses

Heroic Symbol: A Nursehttps://nursingstories.org/2020/05/26/badass-nurse/

One of the memes circulating on the social media platform Reddit created from a photo of UNC Hospital emergency room nurse Grace Cindric taken by News & Observer photojournalist Robert Willett earlier this week.

What Would Flo Think?  

Why Does It Take a Pandemic to Recognize Nurses? 

Nurses Transform Lives

Thanksgiving Tradition

Looks like I have started my own tradition. I am posting Happy Lasagna Day on my Blog during Thanksgiving week for the third time since 2016. That year, my husband and I chose to spend Thanksgiving alone. Last year, although we enjoyed a traditional turkey meal with my daughter, son-in-law and the grandkids, I posted Happy Lasagna Day for the second time. 

This year we will spend Thanksgiving day alone, again, but not by choice. My husband and I are at high risk for the devastating effects of Covid-19 and we decided to stay safe at home. 

Rather than feel sorry for our isolation, I will relive the warm memories of family celebrations of the past by posting Happy Lasagna Day for the third time. Yes, my new ritual. 

Happy Lasagna Day

First posted on November 24, 2016

My husband and I are spending Thanksgiving alone—by choice. We had been invited out but graciously declined. 

After having three sets of houseguests in six weeks, we are happy to be alone. By the way, the house has never been cleaner. 

And we broke from the traditional Thanksgiving dinner—we are having lasagna. 

I love leftover lasagna as much or more than leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy. 

Over the years lasagna has become the ubiquitous casserole. You can find it premade in deli departments and frozen food cases in grocery stores. It’s the go-to meal neighbors bring over to neighbors on happy occasions (childbirth) and solemn occasions (sickness or death in the family). 

My love of lasagna goes back to my childhood when we visited Grandma in Jersey City. She lived in a second floor walk-up two blocks from my house. Who remembers what time she got up in the morning to begin cooking the lasagna and the rest of the meal, including homemade bread and a roasted chicken? As for the lasagna, she made the pasta from scratch. The tomato sauce (we called this gravy) simmered for hours on the stove. She used whole-milk ricotta and mozzarella cheeses that were made fresh at the Italian store down the block.  

Being the oldest granddaughter, I sometimes helped by assembling the multiple layers of the dish. First the sauce, the pasta in one layer, a few spoonfuls of cheese mixture (ricotta, parmesan, eggs, oregano and parsley), sliced mozzarella, more sauce/gravy and then I started over again finishing with the mozzarella on top. 

If the family ever had turkey for Thanksgiving, I don’t remember. 

In Grandma’ s cramped kitchen the men ate first—Grandma’s three sons, her five sons-in law and Grandpa. My cousins and I sat at the “children’s table” that was cobbled together with end tables and folding chairs. The women served and cleared and eventually sat down to dinner with the windows open to let out the steam from the kitchen along with the delicious aromas of the Italian Thanksgiving feast.  

So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for the usual, although not insignificant blessings, such as health, family, friends, but also for the memories that warm me and bring me back to Grandma’s table laden with her gifts and in the company of my extended family—some long gone but not forgotten. 

Wishing you a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving with Joyful Memories. 

United Kingdom Nursing Students Work on the Front Lines of the Pandemic

In my post on September 22: Nursing Students Provide Insights into the Pandemic, I spotlighted the thoughts and experiences of the nursing students from Seton Hall University, New Jersey, as they cared for Covid-19 patients. 

Today’s post has the same focus but this time nursing students from the United Kingdom share their stories about working on the front line of the pandemic.  ITV News from the United Kingdom discusses a new book: Living with Fear: Reflections on Covid-19 that was written by twenty-two nursing students plus other health care providers. The feelings that were expressed by American nursing students are mirrored in the UK nursing stories. The pandemic serves as a backdrop to reinforce the positive impact that nursing has on health care delivery and shows the general public how nursing care makes a difference.

United Kingdom Nursing Students Launch New Book About COVID-19

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Lucy Watson

Wednesday 14 October 2020, 7:16pm

Student nurses who were recruited to work on frontline NHS services to respond the coronavirus crisis have shared their stories in a new book

.

The trainees faced the daunting task of being placed in frontline positions at hospitals around the country whilst finishing their studies amid a global pandemic.

Now, some have written about the personal and professional challenges that inspired them to flourish at a time of national crisis. 

Entitled Living with Fear: Reflections on Covid-19, the book tells the stories of 22 nurses and other frontline professionals reflecting on what they experienced and how it impacted them. 

Ikra Majid reads from the book. Credit: ITV News

Student nurse Ikra Majid did placements at various hospitals in London and Hertfordshire during the pandemic. 

She now works at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield.

“There did get to a point where I thought, why I am I doing this, it’s too much. I didn’t sign up for this pandemic,” she said.

“We have to make the best of it. As people say, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. I tried to make the sweetest lemonade possible.”

She added: “The pandemic has made me realise even more what an important job we do.”

“This book shows that fear doesn’t define or take away the skills and experience of medical professionals, but rather helps them to grow a new way of thinking and working.

“When our students were called into practice, it gave them a true sense of what nursing is. They helped to saved lives and became superheroes in their local communities.”

Another one of the authors, Estelle Kabia, helped patients at the Hammersmith & Fulham Mental Health Unit during the pandemic.

“Covid taught me to be the nurse I want to be,” she said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, I don’t think I will ever do anything as big in my whole life.”

Estelle Kabia helped patients at the Hammersmith & Fulham Mental Health Unit.Credit: ITV News

The book also explores the concept of ‘moral injury’ where nurses feel unable to provide the care the patient needs leaving them to question their own ability.

Ms Kabia said: “Sometimes I felt moral injury as we were picking up new practical skills whilst dealing with sick patients coming in, but it would come and then go, because after a few weeks I could see the impact I had.

“In one way, stepping up was nerve-wracking but it also gave me the passion to go out there and help. You’re treated as a professional, not a student. I had no fear when I was on the ward.”

Claudia Sabeta, who finished her postgraduate course specialising in mental health nursing at Buckinghamshire New University this summer, worked at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow helping vulnerable and elderly mental health patients.

She said: “At first, I felt very overwhelmed by the Covid situation and I was worried about joining. I wondered how I would cope and if I’d put my family at risk. 

“But it was a great experience in the end and an opportunity I will never have again in my life.

“It had a positive impact on my knowledge and training, and boosted my confidence. I learned so fast and it will stay with me forever.”

Credit: ITV News

In July, thousands of student nurses recruited to work on the front line had their placements cut short, plunging some of them into financial despair.

In mid-April, NHS England reported that nearly 15,000 student nurses, midwives and medical students had joined “frontline NHS teams as part of the nationwide coronavirus fightback”.

Proceeds from the book will go to the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) Charitable Fund, which supports staff and service users.

Dr Scott Galloway, one of the book’s authors and Chief Clinical Information Officer at CNWL, said: “Every day, frontline healthcare professionals manage the challenges and stress of making difficult and uncomfortable decisions about how to provide the best possible care to patients.

“Sometimes, however, our capacities are so overwhelmed by extraordinary events, such as Covid-19, that we are unable to provide what we know the patient needs.”

One of the book’s editors Margaret Rioga, Associate Head of School in the School of Nursing and Allied Health at Buckinghamshire New University, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on everybody and created fear within us like never before.

“This book shows that fear doesn’t define or take away the skills and experience of medical professionals, but rather helps them to grow a new way of thinking and working.

“When our students were called into practice, it gave them a true sense of what nursing is. They helped to saved lives and became superheroes in their local communities.”