No Time to Know What Day It Is

selected by Kathy McVady

The following snippets from our mission newsletters to MH staff give a glimpse of Deirdre’s life in the various houses where she served.

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Carriacou, West Indies

Well, Deirdre is getting nicely broken into the West Indies, and judging from appearances, she seems to be adjusting very well. I think she likes it very well.

She is sort of a nature girl. She loves swimming, the gardens, animals.

All sorts of little bugs fascinate her, [in the] compost heaps and so forth, which is nice. She even had the experience of killing a centipede in our kitchen.

However, by the end of the day, when she sees a couple of our giant cockroaches running up and down the floors or walls, she has had enough.

Newsletter, March 17, 1962

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Last week I mentioned how Deirdre had only one confinement [woman giving birth] since Elsie (another staff who was also a midwife) left. This week the picture changed. She had four confinements in five days, and as usual, the calls came mostly at night.

Deirdre isn’t sure which end is up right now—between the confinements and the polio clinic, where she has been giving injections every day. She hasn’t had time to stop and find out what day it is.

Newsletter, May 25, 1963

 

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St. Joseph’s House
by Deirdre

For those who wonder what I do as a public health nurse, my timetable goes something like this. After Mass and a hasty breakfast, I try to get to the school of the day as near as 8:45 as possible to have a chance to see the teacher of the class of children whom I want to check to find out if there are any particular health problems.

I do health checks on grades 1, 4, and 7. I average about ten children in the morning. Then I interpret my findings to the teacher and, if necessary, to the parents, too.

There are eight schools in my area. The larger ones I visit weekly and the others every two weeks, so I go to a school every day.

In the afternoon, I visit the homes, concentrating on the babies and young school children at present. I cover seven villages, including Combermere.

Newsletter, October 8, 1968

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Honduras

Mid-August we were called to Tegucigalpa [the nearest city] to work on our visas, and during this trip we heard that Deirdre was on her way arriving in Honduras on August 15th . With four of us now, we thought the work would ease a bit, but to the contrary it was as though Deirdre’s coming was simultaneous to the growing numbers of sick.

[By the following March] the number of people coming was so great that we all knew that something had to be done.

It was during this period that the rumours of war with El Salvador were becoming more vocal. The campesino invasions were beginning to take place in Olancho. The overt persecution of the bishop and the centro in Juticalpa were coming to a climax:

Most of this unrest flowed around us, but at no time did it directly affect the house.

Jean Fox’s report on MH Honduras, September 1971

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Victoria, GrenadaWest Indies
by Deirdre

Our house is situated on the beach. It is made of stone and cement, with a galvanized roof, and it is 23 x 30 feet in area. The house is simple, unpainted, with no ceiling, but quite comfortable.

We have no electricity yet and use kerosene lamps and candles at night. We cook on a kerosene stove and a coal pot. We have an oven made locally out of a biscuit can, and so far have baked bread in it twice quite successfully.

We do our ironing with sad irons heated on the coal pot. We have no fridge, so perishable food is purchased in small quantities day by day, and we are learning how to preserve fish by salting and drying it.

There is no land around the house to plant anything, but we do have a cement veranda and sea wall to protect us from the heavy seas, and at night we often “breeze” out there in the moonlight and watch the waves lap against the shore.

Newsletter, June 1968

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Elizabeth has returned to Combermere, so I was alone for ten days before Lupe arrived. The people were very concerned that I was alone and were very kind and considerate.

The children would have been only too happy to stay overnight, but as I had them playing here on and off all day, I was only too pleased to have a little time to get some work done and relax!

Newsletter Sept. 19, 1972

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La Loche,
a First Nations Village in Northern Saskatchewan,
by Deirdre

Sometimes I invite people over for supper; otherwise I try and get finished by 7:00 p.m., which is the time I say the children can start coming. Depending on who is in town and what is happening, some weeks the children come every evening. Other times I may not see them for a week.

The children play games, talk, run around as all children do, their ages ranging from 5 – 15 on a regular basis. Odd times, I get the younger members of the family if someone is babysitting.

Around 8:30, I make a hot drink of either chocolate or lemon tea and send the children home when they have finished it and have cleaned and tidied up after themselves.

Newsletter, March 12, 1982

 

Sometimes I invite people over for supper; otherwise I try and get finished by 7:00 p.m., which is the time I say the children can start coming. Depending on who is in town and what is happening, some weeks the children come every evening. Other times I may not see them for a week.

The children play games, talk, run around as all children do, their ages ranging from 5 – 15 on a regular basis. Odd times, I get the younger members of the family if someone is babysitting.

Around 8:30, I make a hot drink of either chocolate or lemon tea and send the children home when they have finished it and have cleaned and tidied up after themselves.

Newsletter, March 12, 1982