When Days Are Long

ebook Nurse in the North

By Amy Wilson

cover image of When Days Are Long

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When Amy Wilson accepted the job of field nurse for the Indigenous Peoples in the Yukon and Northern British Columbia in 1949, she was told that the north was a fine country for men and dogs but that it killed women and horses. Undaunted, Wilson travelled the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse (Mile 916) to Mile Zero. She served Indigenous Peoples in tents, shacks and on the trapline, travelling by dog team, car, plane, snowshoe, horseback and boat. She was the first to respond when a half-frozen man came stumbling into a ham radio operator's shack with a story of epidemic and starvation at Halfway River. With five doses of antitoxin pinned inside her sweater to keep them warm, she made her way through forty-below temperatures to the camp where Indigenous Peoples were still living in summer tents. Four people had died of the "choking sickness" before Wilson's arrival, but she brought immediate help, and shortly thereafter supplies began to arrive by sleigh and by air. The details of the diphtheria epidemic are both tragic and dramatic and just one of many such incidents in the busy life of the "Indian Nurse," as she was called. Wilson's territory spanned 518,000 square kilometres. She was responsible for the health of 3,000 Indigenous Peoples, but Wilson was more than just a health care provider: over time, she became an advocate, partner and friend for the community with whom she shared mutual respect, music, medicine, tea from tobacco tins and, most of all, with whom she shared her heart. Originally published as No Man Stands Alone in 1965 by Gray's Publishing LTD., this new edition, When Days Are Long: Nurse in the North, includes an introduction by Wilson's grandniece, Laurel Deedrick-Mayne, which brings crucial insights to this important figure in BC's history. A percentage of proceeds from When Days Are Long will be donated to the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association's Jean Goodwill Scholarship.
When Days Are Long