Nurses from Saskatchewan working Overseas

Nurses from Saskatchewan have practised all over the world. Some have decided that working in places where there are many less fortunate is their calling. One such nurse is Mary Pyne. Raised in small-town Saskatchewan, Mary travelled far and wide with her nursing career spending time in Portugal, Angola and Zaire, teaching nursing students in the African countries and learning much about other cultures.

Mary sailed from Montreal to Lisbon in 1956. She stayed in Portugal for just over a year to learn the language and arrived in Angola on New Year's Day, 1958. Teaching in Angola was not all the work that Mary did in Angola. Refugees would often knock at her door in search of medical assistance. Since she could speak their language while workers in the emergency rooms could not, she would go with them and translate so that they could receive the medical assistance they needed.

Mary remembers some of the different diseases that she saw in Angola and Zaire that were different from those one would see in Saskatchewan. She saw quite a bit of malaria and a large number of parasites. She also remembers that because of the number of snake-bite cases, the hospital usually carried snake venom, something not generally found in Saskatchewan hospitals.

Because the hospital did not serve food, people who came in from the villages would set up fires outside of the hospital and cook their own food. She does remember the hospital in Angola as being quite well-equipped with modern machines such as an electrocardiograph. Mary's job was to teach students to use the equipment as well as teaching them to care for a patient with only a minimum of equipment

Mary also travelled to the villages to practise some of her nursing there. She loved the people in Africa and felt like a part of their communities and families. In spite of the long work days, Mary looks back on her time overseas with great fondness.

"In Angola I loved to go and visit the villages, the people were very, very hospitable. But usually we would go out to immunize and we would immunize probably five hundred children in one days work. So we would go out at 7:00 o'clock in the morning and we would be there until we finished those immunizations which would be late in the evening. And so the people came very willing to be immunized and after we were all, had completed the immunization in the last village, the people would make us some food. And I can remember seeing a very skinny chicken going by the school window where we were immunizing and thinking, I am so hungry I could eat that chicken. But the people in the villages, usually when we came there, they would begin to sing and they would sing songs of welcome. Often the people were very poor. They were just barely making a living from their fields, most of their livelihood was agriculture but some of the villages, they even had sheep and they spun wool and that was unusual. But all of this disappeared with the war, all this wonderful life in the villages, disappeared with the war because people had to flee. They had to flee to Lawanda, the capital and a lot of them lost their farms and the life they had had before."

" The war began in, well there was some conflict in '74 but around '76 the war erupted and it kept on for nearly 30 years. At the same time, at the time the war was going on in Angola, I was in Zaire and we were only 50 miles, no, we were only 50 kilometers from the border of Angola and quite often we could hear the Portuguese shelling the border villages at night. And then the next day we would have people come in from land mine accidents or from other, from shelling and so we had a big hospital there, we had a 400 bed hospital in Zaire. In Angola the hospital was almost that large, was almost 400 and so sometimes I remember things about Angola that took, are, that took place when I was in Zaire, so I sometimes mix up the two. "