Adventures of a Grenfell Nurse

Adventures of a Grenfell Nurse is a riveting collection of stories that share the experiences of a Grenfell nurse in the early 1950s in the subarctic climate of Newfoundland and Labrador: a train wreck, a dogsled trip, the delivery of a baby on board a coastal steamship, a harrowing sailing experience, a near-shipwreck in gale-force winds, and much more. In her own words, 89-year-old author Rosalie Lombard tells us about herself and how the book came to be.

After I retired from a rather busy life in the field of nursing education and administration, the memories increasingly flowed back about the period in the early 1950s when, at the age of 25, I left the large medical center in New York City to travel to northern Newfoundland and work as a nurse with the Grenfell Mission.

As I learned of the changes in Newfoundland and medical care in general, I realized the uniqueness of that experience and how, in today’s culture, it might seem unbelievable. I felt I had to document it for my family and friends.

Finally in 2014 at the age of 87, after being convinced by friends that there might be a wider audience of interested people, I completed the first edition of Adventures of a Grenfell Nurse and it was published.

The process of writing had not been easy or rapid. For approximately ten years I had been writing and editing in spurts while other events barged in for priority; such things as travel to other countries, moving to several new cities, and pursuing other interests.I wanted photos for the book and yet I had only taken with me in 1952 a movie camera. I had to find some way to capture still photographs from those movie reels. First they were transferred to DVDs. and after some searching I found a technician who could produce stills from the DVDs.

During this whole process I found more and more books about Newfoundland, the Newfoundland Railway (on which I had been a passenger when it was wrecked), the changes in the fishing industry, books written by other nurses and doctors with the Grenfell Mission, other stories about sailing in the Strait of Belle Isle and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and on and on. I became so involved that I found myself doing more reading and researching than writing. I had no idea that there were so many good books about Newfoundland. So, in the autumn of my life, this was a very pleasant period of reintroduction to things Newfoundland.

After publication, I began to hear from persons who had been with the Grenfell Mission or who had an interest in Newfoundland and Labrador. I reconnected with some people with whom I had had no contact for 60+ years; this included locating at long last the whereabouts of “the baby” whose delivery I helped with on board the coastal steamer, Springdale. 62 years later I was able to communicate with her. These contacts, and others, made all of my efforts worthwhile.

What a feeling of relief when that last draft was sent off to the publisher. Little did I know that soon after, I would begin to remember other stories and think of updates to improve that book. All of this led finally to a revised version being published two years later, and who knows whether a third edition might appear two years hence?

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