The truck was loaded with everything but the essentials for the morning, as we planned to start out early, drive 264 km along highway 599, to highway 17, and stop in Ignace for breakfast.
We were sitting around the table after supper, when Rebecca showed Joyce the burn on her leg from the exhaust pipe on Jamie's motorbike on the journey to Mish a week earlier. Joyce, a retired nurse, had been checking it all week and it had seemed to be healing well, but on Thursday and Friday, Rebecca had gone swimming with the children, and now the wound looked nasty and the flesh for several inches above it had turned a hot looking pink.
I panicked; possessed with a sense of urgency that told me Rebecca needed to be on antibiotics. All of a sudden we seemed so far away from the kind of help we take for granted in the south! I went into another room and checked on the internet, but could only see that the Health Centre was open 9-5, Monday to Friday and it was now about 7.30 p.m. on Saturday. I searched further and the nearest emergency medical help seemed to be in Sioux Lookout--231 km away, with an estimated driving time of 4 hours.
I rejoined the group around the table and shared what I had found. "I'll drive Rebecca to Sioux Lookout," I said to my companions who seemed so calm in comparison to me. Susan said she was sure it only took two and a half hours, and A.J. was willing to drive.
Joyce suggested that we first go to the nurses residences on Sandy Road and see if one of them was on duty. While the others were getting ready to leave I called the police and left a message asking where we could get medication for someone in need of antibiotics.
We drove down the dark road and rounded the bend to where the nurses' residences stood, up on a small hill. I went from door to door, knocking, praying that one would open. A young boy called to his mom, a nurse, who said that she was off duty, but another nurse would be on duty in about half an hour.
Joyce said we should drive down the road to the village and see if anyone was at the Health Centre. Against hope, that's what we did, and to my surprise, the lights were on and the door was opened by a man who invited us in, offered us a place to sit, and said he'd tell the nurse we were there.
A few minutes later, the nurse came out of her office and looked at the three of us with a confused expression. "Did you make an appointment?" she said. As we explained why we were there, she told us that we were very lucky to find her there; she was only there because of another seriously ill patient that she had been treating.
I was so relieved to actually be in her office that I sat silently thanking God as she took down Rebecca's details and carefully assessed the condition of her leg.
Joyce conferred with her, nurse to nurse, discussing the options and agreeing together on antibiotics, which were dispensed right then and there.
We learned the nurse's name; Myrtle Bonnie; and that she was from Brampton, but originally from Ghana. She had come with her husband, also a nurse, wanting to share the light of God's love with the people of Mish as they served them medically.
By the time we drove back up Sandy Road to the the school, we had a new friend to pray for and I was relieved that Rebecca had already started antibiotics. We had learned from Myrtle that pregnant women from the reserve have to leave their families six weeks before the birth of their babies for Sioux Lookout, in case of complications at birth. They are reluctant to leave, and Myrtle has the hard job of insisting that she isn't equipped to deal with what might go wrong, so far from medical assistance. How hard that must be for the women, and their families.
We made some stops on our way, at the home of a little girl to whom Susan had promised her pillow, and then at Ten Houses to drop off some last items--and then we were really on our way home.
I know that I wasn't the only one who left with a heart captured forever by the people of the north, and especially Mishkeegogamang.