There is a meme floating around the Internet that states: “Don’t live the same year 75 times over and call it a life”. For at least two years of her substantial life (born in 1927, she is still alive as of this writing), Rosalie Lombard could not be accused of any sort of repetition as she served as a nurse for the Grenfell Mission in St. Anthony, Newfoundland. Train wreck, dogsled trips to assist very remote patients, delivering a baby onboard a steamship, sailing trips and more made up the years 1952-1954.
What is engrossing about Adventures of a Grenfell Nurse (2017, Flanker Press) is the time period: the early 50’s and Newfoundland & Labrador is no longer a British colony, but part of the Dominion of Canada. Getting around “the Rock” is still fairly primitive: the narrow-gauge railway on which the “Newfie Bullet” runs, good roads in rural areas are pretty much non-existent (especially in winter) and medical supplies are hard to come by. Surgeries had to be done with the most basic of equipment, yet patient outcomes were favourable for the most part, thanks to the expertise of Dr Gordon W. Thomas to whom the book is dedicated.
Fully half of the book is taken up by the fascinating day-to-day narrative of a voyage onboard the Northern Messenger, a 45-foot ketch-rigged ship (fitted with a 25 HP motor) which once sailed up and down the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador for the Grenfell Mission, ferrying patients to and from hospitals. However, in 1953 it was half submerged in waters off Murray’s Point and had to be righted and put into dry dock before she could be sailed anywhere. This was done and Rosalie and a few others were off on another adventure, using some free time to act as crew members attempting to get the owner to Boston in time for the birth of his first child, “with a little luck, in ten day’s time”. Things turned out much differently than anticipated, however!
In her “Afterthoughts – 2016” at the end of her book she writes:
“During the past five to ten years, my thoughts have increasingly turned to the time I spent in St. Anthony and the realisation that those experiences were truly unique. Although it was just a two-year slice out of my eighty-nine years, it has had a profound impact.”
It is evident from reading this book that Ms Lombard genuinely enjoyed her short period of time which she spent with the Grenfell Mission. Her lively recollections are as vivid as if they just happened, though over sixty years have passed. Her reminisces in Adventures of a Grenfell Nurse will be of particular interest to health care professionals, as well as the armchair adventurer. A small, but important piece of Newfoundland & Labrador history has been preserved for the ages by Ms Lombard.