I am a 92 year old retired Alaskan bush doctor.

I lived as a child in Cuba for 7 years-we left when the revolution began. Our plane left Havana and the next plane was shot down. I then moved back to the states and ended up going to LSU, graduated medical school in 1950. My residency was at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. My first job was Crown Point in New Mexico, working with the Navahos for 9 months.

After that I went to Alaska, and I was supposed to work in Anchorage, but the Native Alaskan Hospital was not finished. So I went to Tanana, in the middle of Alaska, and ran the hospital as the only doctor. I had 18 villages, none connected by roads and so I had to go by float plane and dogsled. I was a dentist, surgeon, OB, psychiatrist (whatever was needed)... holding clinics every 5-6 weeks and seeing everybody in the village.

I have delivered a baby in a plane, gone on rescue trips up the frozen Yukon on dogsled, had many babies named after me, and many more adventures!

I also wrote a book called "From Dog Sleds to Float Planes" which I sell mostly from home but there are copies on Amazon too!

My Proof: http://imgur.com/d2UMII0 http://imgur.com/VfueI4y

My granddaughter is helping me out! AMA!

Edit: Hey guys my grandmother is going to sitting yoga right now so we will be offline for a while... I will see if she is up to answering more today, otherwise we can answer some more tomorrow morning! This really has made her so happy!

Comments: 927 • Responses: 93  • Date: 

tenel_ka271496 karma

First, you're absolutely amazing.

Second, what's your absolute favorite experience so far?

TheRogueBludger2348 karma

It's hard to tell, because there were so many fun things! I loved the airplane rescue with Tuffy Edgington, it was the most exciting and rewarding. He was a gold miner, he didn't check his plane well when he took off, and so he crashed shortly after. He and his 5-month pregnant wife, and an older Native Alaskan lady (she was 50... but I was 28 so she seemed old!) crashed off the Yukon. So the wife and the Native lady dragged him up a steep hill to a cabin, which was good because it was -50 degrees out, they got a fire started so it was warm. He had so many fractures and lacerations! The next morning the old lady walked 8 miles to the Swenson cabin who got on his dog sled and got up to Tanana to the hospital I was working at. Basco, the hospital boy, gathered supplies and a dog sled team and we went up the Yukon (which doesn't freeze smoothly!). Halfway there Basco fell into a crevice and we were worried he broke his leg but luckily it was just a sprain. After 6 hours on dogsled, with me holding the IV fluids between my knees to keep it from freezing, we got to the cabin. By this time there were 30 more people in the cabin because this was a big exciting event. I cleaned Tuffy's wounds and bandaged him best I could, then we cut down branches from the trees to make splints for his legs and wrists. We used a blanket and make a stretcher. We got on a rescue plane with Tuffy, me holding the IV bag and morphine drip, and made the trip to the hospital in Anchorage where he fully recovered.

What a fun experience for me!

reddit_citrine238 karma

Did you ever go over to Alakanuk? Maybe around 1967-1972? I lived there with my teacher parents during then.

TheRogueBludger334 karma

Alakanuk was one of my villages I worked at, but I didn't go there during that time period! What a great experience for you!

kerningsaveslives588 karma


  1. Do you still live in Alaska?
  2. Can you describe one, or a few, of the biggest medical advances that really changed life for you and your patients in rural Alaska?

TheRogueBludger1422 karma

  1. No, moved to down to Oregon 5 years ago to be closer to my daughters because my husband was too sick for me to take care of him. I never planned to leave!

  2. Well, it was back in the 50s so the biggest change was with tuberculosis. I had been in Tanana for 2 years and they had come out with the INH treatment for TB. TB was rampant in Alaska at that time, all over... with infections in the lungs, brain, bones... everywhere. I had one woman, all her kids had TB. She came to the hospital with a mass in her neck. It took us 6 weeks to get cultures done but it was TB in her neck, which had gone to her kids. The CDC started INH treatments up there, and we had amazing results. It was curing people of terrible TB! It was a wonder drug. I took it too because I got a lot of blood on me from these patients. One pregnant lady said she wouldn't take it because she was pregnant and I said "hey look, I'm pregnant and I'm taking it!". It was good that our babies turned out ok! Before INH we had only Streptomycin and it wasn't as fast or as good. That was the most amazing drug!

kerningsaveslives242 karma

Thank you!

TheRogueBludger392 karma

Very good question!

Boon_Retsam166 karma

I'm a medical student, and oddly enough, my TB skin test just turned positive this year, despite having had the BCG vaccine as a kid. So I'm probably going to be taking INH (isoniazid) as well for a while. Fascinating how much this drug has helped people. Some places, it's not working super well anymore, but to work for over 60 years when so many other bugs have become resistant to drugs is pretty amazing!

TheRogueBludger82 karma

It was truly a wonder drug!

EmmaofEngland468 karma

What was it like being a woman doctor at a time when it was more unusual?

TheRogueBludger1654 karma

When I was in Tanana they were stuck with me! But after I left Tanana they sent a male doctor there. But he ended up getting sick so I had to go back up there and he was not happy having me treat him! Some of the children were so used to having me that they didn't want to go to him. They believed he wasn't a doctor because he didn't wear a skirt! I thought that was funny.

When I was in medical school there was a lot of chauvanistic tendencies. In fact, when you applied to medical school the board would look at all the photos of the applicants. If they thought the woman was too pretty they would say "she'll just get married" and toss out the application. But I got in!

Monkey_Milk375 karma

I have a distant relative, Sam O. White that was the first/one of the first (so says the Internet anyway) bush pilots/wardens in Alaska from the 1920's until '76. I wonder if you ever ran into each other......if you don't ask a question the AMA sends the Gestapo out to delete your comment I guess.....so, did you ever run into him?

TheRogueBludger517 karma

Yes, I knew him! He seemed very nice, but I never flew with him as I used Garfield Hanson as my pilot always. That's such a coincidence!

balmergrl370 karma

I had a roommate many years ago who'd go up to Alaska during tourist season to work, she had like 4-5 rotating boyfriends there who were out to sea on fishing boats at various times. They all had some vague awareness of each other and were cool with it.

Did you get into the dating scene there and what was Alaska social life like in your experience?

TheRogueBludger1133 karma

Well, I figured early on that you have to keep the nurses happy. So everytime I went to a village or to Fairbanks, if I found any eligible men I would invite them to Tanana to the Saturday Night Dance, which was held in the nurses hall. And boy, they came and were fascinated! We had lots of fun, the nurses and me, with those boys. The head nurse was supposed to chaperone but I found I (at 28 to 30) had to take over the chaperone duties as the head nurse was sleeping with some of the men! And we would dance until 4 AM, and then I would sit on the sofa and cut all the men's hair-but all I knew was a crew cut so they would all go home with a crew cut!

Oh! And they would all come to Tanana on their planes. It was an event!

I used to go to the pot lucks with the natives in the village, and they wouldn't let me eat bear meat. According to them, if I had eaten bear meat before I was married I would never had children!

(This is her granddaughter right now... I asked my grandma if that was 4 PM or 4 AM and she looked at me and said "oh 4 AM , obviously").

everythingisforants94 karma

Wow! That is amazing. If you don't mind the questions: were there any "difficulties" with unexpected pregnancy among the nurses? Do you feel that the isolation in Alaska led to a more equal footing between the genders or a more stark imbalance? How did the native peoples handle gender relations as you saw it?

TheRogueBludger199 karma

I had no sexism really, and most of the natives ended up believing that women could be doctors just as men could and therefore no one really questioned it.

As for the natives, they were very certain in their roles as the men would hunt and the women would be child bearers. But there were medicine women in the villages and the midwives were wonderful.

veniversumv283 karma

I'd like to start off by saying how honored I am to read about you, Alaska's (American) history is incredibly short, but here you are with all of these incredible stories with so much wisdom and kindness.

There's a little backstory to my question...

I was the very first member of my family to be born in Alaska (Anchorage in '93), with a bunch of cousins born after as my mom's siblings followed her all the way from Texas and Mexico. I grew up camping every weekend in summer and wearing snowsuits with a princess dress stretched over every halloween, and I grew up making tamales, frijoles, and tortillas with my grandma, eventually going from knowing only Spanish as a child to recalling mere fragments as an adult.

My question is: spending any amount of years in Alaska is amazing, but I'd love to know what parts of having lived there do you think have had the biggest impact on your life? On your children's and grandchildren's lives?

Thank you again so much for doing this AMA, I'm having such a good time reading your answers and learning even more about home.

TheRogueBludger354 karma

Tanana was my favorite, and I definitely learned a lot. The weather was amazing! The summer was amazing, with beautiful days and the roaring Yukon right next to us. In the winter it would get down to -67 degrees... I always wanted to see if I could get to -80 degrees but couldn't! I used to walk home when it was -50 degrees from the 3 reel movies on Friday nights, and it would feel like my lungs were frozen. All my children grew up in Alaska and California and became very independent, I think that the Alaska way is to make the children independent.

peanutbudderbacon70 karma

You said that you were treating people in villages. Were any of the villages groups of Native Alaskans? Did you learn a lot about the Native culture?

TheRogueBludger178 karma

I was immersed in native culture! Even now I have many items the native Alaskans made for me around the house and raised my kids on their stories and tales.

paross273 karma

Great to see you online doing an AMA.

In 92 years, what has surprised you/changed the most?

TheRogueBludger1179 karma

That I'm still having to tell people the same thing... vaccinate and eat well! That surprises me!

RiceDicks231 karma

Medical resident here, incredible to hear about your experiences! What are your thoughts regarding the future of physician practice in rural/austere environments in Alaska? What were the biggest changes there you noticed in the latter part of your career?

TheRogueBludger369 karma

Well, it's changed a lot now. Because they have a base in Anchorage where they can send EKGs and xrays electronically from the villages, and then doctors there can read the reports and then send out a specialist if needed. When I was working there we were lucky to have a specialist come out once a year!

The biggest changes was having everything put onto computers and having consultants and specialists... I retired in 2006, so you can imagine there is no comparison from 1950 to then! Most of it was all for the good.

reus-in-aeternum219 karma

in 2006? That means you were already 81 when you retired? That is really impressive!

What made you want to become a doctor? As far as I'm informed, it was very uncommon in that time for women to study in genereal.

TheRogueBludger475 karma

My mother had parotid cancer, which is a tumor in the neck. So I decided to go into medicine to cure cancer! Haven't quite done that, but I've tried!

kmc1138202 karma

When you arrived in Tanana were you frightened? Were you prepared for the wild adventures you'd end up taking, and did it ever feel like "just another day at work"?

Also - you're amazing. Thank you for being a caregiver and a pioneer to boot!

TheRogueBludger579 karma

Well when I got to Tanana and flew in I saw this little village under me... in the summer they would go to salmon camp and the winter to caribou camp so I wasn't sure what to expect. I didn't know if I could take care of Tanana itself, let alone 18 other small villages!

When I got there I was in my light blue suit, heels, my dog Tinker with me... and I got off the plane and Tinker ran between my legs and I decided then that I wouldn't be very dignified. There was a big black truck from the hospital and all the staff was in the bed waving at me, it was very friendly!

My first day on the job I walked into clinic and I saw this shadowy figure sitting in the waiting room... but when I went up to him he was dead! It turns out they put the dead people in sitting positions so they fit in the plane better to fly them to their village or the city.

I guess I never felt frightened because everyone was so friendly and my dog was with me too. I do remember hearing the radio call and mentally prepare for whatever crazy fun experience I would be heading into now!

wyvory91172 karma

This is truly an amazing story!

My question(s):

How did you balance modern medicine with the traditional native practices? And with that, to what extent did cultural sexism and superstitions affect your work?

TheRogueBludger493 karma

Well there was no sexism there because I was the only doctor there in the 30 bed hospital! It was so nice. When I got my letter from Juneau with my job description, it had said I would make rounds with the head doctor and consult with the other doctors-but I was the only doctor there! Because of this I got a raise from $1250 to $1500 a month. I was only about 28 years old, and when I first came to the village all the old men came to the clinic and seemed to approve of me... then the old women came and they passed on me. But they brought their kids and that was that. My reputation spread quickly and people seemed very comfortable that I was there.

When I first came, there was a medicine woman in the village. An old man had had a stroke and she took a hair from the man's head, threaded a needle with it and put it in his cheek down to the bottom of his lip and back up, then tied it together. This was to help his lip which was sagging. But she never felt the need to step on my toes and the like.

In New Mexico it was different though. I once had 5 medicine men on the ward (ill), and I would show them how I used the stethoscope and otoscope and they were very interested. They then showed me how to use the sand paintings when they were treating people. It was very interesting! But never any animosity towards each other.

That was such a good questions!

Ginger_Lord213 karma

In today's dollars that means a raise from 13K/mo to 15.5k/mo.

For a woman in the 1950's, this gal was doing alright for herself. As well she should have been with talent like that!

TheRogueBludger176 karma

I guess that makes sense! I supposed just comparing to other people I graduated with I was making less than them.

Ginger_Lord145 karma

To be clear, for the work you were doing you should have been insulating your cabin with Benjamins and it is absurdly unfair that you made less than your peers.

That being said, you were obviously a pioneer when it came to women in the workforce (not that you need me to tell you that) and it is wonderful that you were able to be successful while navigating a whole extra set of challenges that your male peers may very well have been entirely oblivious of.

TheRogueBludger155 karma

Thank you! The male doctors who followed me never ventured out to the surrounding villages either.

Ginger_Lord41 karma

Pansies. Probably afraid of bears. Do you have any reason why they stayed with the clinics?

On a related note (and if I may be so bold as to ask for more), I've known a few social workers and a speech-language therapist who have some less-than-flattering opinions of doctors on the whole. Common threads are arrogance, narcissism, and to a lesser degree general selfishness at least insofar as their professional relationships with non-doctors/surgeons are concerned. Have you heard these opinions before? If so would you agree with the sentiment for the profession generally, and do you see a difference between that personality and the the personality of bush doctors?

TheRogueBludger101 karma

I have seen that somewhat, but I believe that it used to be much worse. My daughter and granddaughter are nurses and I can see the change with doctors no longer being as self centered and self reliant, and a much better team aspect now coming into play.

KittyFace1155 karma

In my experience, actual Healers, regardless of nation or background or experience, all have a healthy respect for each other.

TheRogueBludger62 karma

It was a wonderful experience for me.

ddollarsign39 karma

How would they use the sand paintings? Did they seem to work?

I think they did that for Mulder in one episode of X-Files.

TheRogueBludger85 karma

So there were certain patterns that they would draw in the sand for certain ailments. They would also come to the hospital (the medicine men) in covered wagons while I was in Crown Point, and they would park in front of the hospital when they would visit the other Native American patients.

Crysanthia157 karma

Did you experience many preterm births? How did you stabilize these babies? Did you transport them out by dog sled?

TheRogueBludger440 karma

I did have preterm babies. I would deliver them and then keep them in a box in my office because we had no incubators in the villages. They would be 3 or 4 pounds. Some of them died when they were born but that was uncommon. The nurses were really good, they would come into the office and check them all the time. Since I didn't know how to use the preemie needles, I would give them transfusions and fluids through the bone, and would sit with them to make sure it didn't clog up the entire time it was in.

In my hospital in Tanana, half the 30 bed hospital was Tuberculosis, 1/4 was women's ward for birthing, and 1/4 was for everything else. We would sometimes have so many kids in the hospital that we would have to put them in cardboard boxes or in the same crib, if they had the same diagnosis! Medicine has come a long way!

TheRogueBludger401 karma

I did learn early that we had to keep the babies until they were really healthy because if we sent them back to the villages they always came back immediately with something else. We always played with them after dinner... and some of the parents didn't like that the babies were so pale after being in a hospital, so we would put them out in the sun when they could tolerate it sometimes.

everythingisforants161 karma

Wow, it sounds like you guys unintentionally (?) practiced some of the techniques they recommend today with preterm babies. When it came out that physical contact was beneficial for preterms were you like 'well, duh'?

TheRogueBludger137 karma

Yes, same with appendicitis. We would treat it with Penicillin because we couldn't surgically remove the organ in the village, and now they treat it with antibiotics!

Bruska155 karma

Excuse my ignorance but I'm from the other side of the globe and I don't imagine that there was a huge variety of fresh fruit and vegetables in remote parts of Alaska. As a doctor how did you recommend that people eat to have a balanced diet? I imagine that some rural people would laugh at you if told to eat multiple servings of fresh fruit and vegetables each day.

TheRogueBludger269 karma

Hahaha! Well everybody grew vegetables throughout the entire summer, which grew huge and they had a very long growing period. The cabbages could be a hundred pounds! So they would have a good diet in the summer, but in the winter they would not have a great diet. They used to bury eggs in the snow and then dig them up and eat them in the winter. It was definitely much better health wise in the summer! They would also have a lot of different berries in the spring, summer and fall.

vapemebaby130 karma

Lady you don't look a day over 79. What's your secret?

TheRogueBludger196 karma

(She laughed for a long time and shrugged)

sardinejellyroll114 karma

How did it feel being the only doctor? I'm a nurse in the ER, and while we never can tell what will walk in the door, there is at least one or two other doctors in the building that can help if needed. Did you ever feel ill equipped to handle an injury or condition? I imagine it must have been scary sometimes.

TheRogueBludger296 karma

Well one time somebody was flown to me with a severe eye injury, and I knew that I couldn't handle that so they ended up taking him to St Jo's in Fairbanks for me. I lucked out on surgery... we had a fully equipped surgery unit but I was always reading books on how to do certain surgeries if the need arose.

We used to treat the villagers appendicitis with penicillin because I couldn't remove it there... and look, now they do that anyways! I also taught people how to deliver babies over radio in the village!

SkyCakeIsALie108 karma

What's the farthest northern Alaskan community you've been to?

Weirdest food you've tried?

TheRogueBludger264 karma

The farthest I've been was Barrow to visit. That's the northernest you can get! We slept under the plane we flew up in. The Northernest place I worked was Anaktuvuk Pass, which was my favorite village. One native lady came in and had 3 babies in her Parkie Hood! Anaktuvuk had so many pregnant women... it kept me busy!

The weirdest food was probably Walrus. It was so gummy and thick. Not very appetizing!

SkyCakeIsALie73 karma

That's awesome, I want to visit Barrow. Kotzebue is the farthest north I've visited. What time of year were you there?

Have you tried muktuk (whale blubber & meat)? If so, is it similar?

TheRogueBludger141 karma

I was in Barrow on 4th of July weekend... we couldn't sleep very well with the sun out all day and night!

I have had muktuk... it did taste similar to walrus but was better tasting. I still didn't really like it all that much.

TheRogueBludger136 karma

They also used to just cut off pieces of whale and eat it raw as a snack. I never joined that tradition!

SkyCakeIsALie55 karma

Did you ever use native herbs/plants for curing ailments?

TheRogueBludger132 karma

Not very much... sometimes the Natives would bring in what they called homebrew and give it to the kids because they liked it a lot, but I usually just allowed that and would continue to treat them with my medicine.

I did get to learn from the Navaho Medicine Men how they used sand paintings to treat patients, but never used that in practice.

RoutineEnvelope102 karma

Hey, your replies so far have just been amazing to read. I have to look into your book!

I just want to know if you ever considered a different career or rather a different setting. If so, why did this lifestyle win?

TheRogueBludger244 karma

Because I was having fun! I was in New Mexico when I heard about the Alaska job. I actually applied to Alaska and Japan at the same time. In Japan I applied for the job that was the "Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission", where a friend of mine was working. I think I would have liked that too, but Alaska responded to me first and so I went up there. Crazy!

monkeysatemybarf60 karma

Thank you for doing this! I'm enjoying your stories very much. What drove you to apply for such wild assignments? Surely you were seeking a very different kind of fun than many of your peers. Where do you think your sense of adventure comes from?

TheRogueBludger227 karma

The Persons family has always had adventurers. My father was a missionary in Cuba, and my uncle's were also crazy. One was the chief of staff for Eisenhower, one was the governor of Alabama... so I wanted to have grand adventures like them. And there was so much to see in the world, too.

Prysorra98 karma

Do your grandchildren appreciate books like The Hatchet, and pre-internet world they live in?

Do they appreciate that their gramma had those kinds of adventures?

TheRogueBludger216 karma

As her granddaughter, we actually grew up with a lot of Native Alaskan books and stories! It was great... we spent a lot of time up in Alaska running wild.

DaMarco1790 karma

My mom wants to know if you ever had any close encounters with bears?

Kind of a weird question, but my mom is genuinely curious.

TheRogueBludger192 karma

Well, we used to fly over them all the time in Tanana... my pilot would fly down and the bear would rear up and we'd fly away... but we never walked around with guns or anything but we weren't afraid. My one encounter was when one time, just for fun, a nurse and I decided to camp in a tent by the Yukon. We had Tinker (my dog) and another little black dog. We were sleeping in our sleeping bags and we heard a noise and there was a grizzly outside our tent by the tree. The black dog chased the grizzly away and it almost ran over the tent.

We also used to go to the garbage dump and watch the bears try to get into the canisters. But they never threatened us! Lots of moose too.

tehjenz0rz87 karma

what patient stands out to you the most? also, my life is better knowing that awesome people like you exist. :)

TheRogueBludger294 karma

There were so many that were great patients. One of my favorites was in Anaktuvik Pass, there was snow everywhere but we landed and made our way to the WW2 quonset hut and set up for the clinic. The next day this beautiful tall Native woman came in with her Parkie and reached into her hood and pulled out a 3 month old baby and sat it on the bench. Then she reached back and pulled out another, just over a year old and set it on the bench. And then she reached out and pulled out one more baby and set it on the bench. That was my favorite memory from my favorite town.

if_six_was_nine85 karma

I start my internship in about a week... any advice? I'd be interested to hear any tips on interacting with patients

TheRogueBludger318 karma

Be sure to sit down and make eye contact and listen to the patient. That is 90% of the job! And remember that nurses will make your life easy if you treat them well!

flossandbrush73 karma

Fascinating. What sort of items did you carry in your field medical kit(s)?

TheRogueBludger165 karma

Stethoscope, otoscope, tongue blades, dental instruments, injectable Novocaine and ephedrine (for teeth pulling), bandages, a splint or two, ace bandages, antibiotics (only streptomycin at the beginning, but penicillin once they got smaller dosing, IV fluids and a few IVs. That was normally what I took to the villages.

kimvais69 karma

Do you have plans to republish your book in electronic form? I would really love a kindle version and would be more than happy to pay the price of a hardback for it as your story must be just as awesome as you are!

For some odd reason, my dream job as a kid was to be a bush doctor that is also the pilot. (And yes, I am fully aware that this is probably as likely and reasonable of a career choice as, say an astronaut-pirate in real life.) But/so somehow -- or therefore -- I ended in the software engineering business instead.

I was trying to buy your book on amazon, but apparently none of the sellers are happy to ship to Finland :(

TheRogueBludger136 karma

I could send it to you if you want to pay for postage only! I would be happy to send you a copy!

TheRogueBludger88 karma

An astronaut pirate might be a good secondary career, ha ha!

Ol_Musky_Elon68 karma

Hello! Thank you for doing this :)

What were some of the biggest health problems you dealt with that in your opinion were unique to the north?

TheRogueBludger144 karma

Turberculosis. It was absolutely rampant when I was up in the bush, with it infecting everything from bones to skin to brain to lungs. Outside Alaska there weren't nearly as many cases as in Alaska. It wasn't until we got the wonder drug INH that we were able to even start to control it!

INTERNET7802358 karma

Hi Jean, great read and thanks for doing this AMA. Swedish anesthesiologist here.

Practicing medicine in different fields (internal med, surgery, psychiatry etc) while being the only doctor means you've probably encountered a couple of situations where you hadn't a lot of formal prior training under supervision.

Any particular situations that were the most challenging to deal with?

TheRogueBludger116 karma

I never had any training in orthopedics so I had to learn quickly how to set bones and relocate joints and do splints. I also wasn't trained in OB but I got a lot of practice. There was only one baby I couldn't get out because he was breech... I had not learned about forecep deliveries and so I had to learn on the job. I also pulled a lot of teeth which was new to me as well. It was very difficult but you end up making due with what you know!

Zan_H55 karma

Who is your favourite Beatle?

TheRogueBludger116 karma

The whole bunch were good!

yourcrazy10052 karma

Hello. Great stories and thank you! My great uncle Sam Otho White was the first game warden and a bush pilot in Alaska. Ever meet him? He has a great book of tales as well. I will certainly be getting yours. Thanks.

TheRogueBludger91 karma

I did know Sam because he was a friend of my pilot, Garfield Hansen. There is someone else on here who has Sam as a distant relative too.

TheWingDistrict50 karma

Firstly, thank you so much for doing an AMA!

Secondly, whats the wierdest procedure you have ever had to perform?

TheRogueBludger209 karma

There were a lot that I had to perform! The one I didn't expect to do was treat a toddler who had been mauled by a bunch of dogs in Tanana. I accompanied her to the hospital in Fairbanks, sutured her up and stayed with her reading to her until the next morning when she woke up. I saw her years later and she was perfect!

Another one was when I had to fly up to help a merchant's wife. Acute chest pain and upper gastric pain, gave her morphine and loaded her on the plane to head to Fairbanks. It was the roughest flight I've ever taken from Hughes to Fairbanks. We finally got into Fairbanks, and found out she had had a heart attack and also an acute gallbladder. She ended up going right back to work. People were tough up there, they had to be! She was also the godmother of two of my girls.

FanOfGoodMovies49 karma

Did you or your nurses teach any locals first aid or other medical techniques?

TheRogueBludger97 karma

Not during my time there, but a few years later the Natives would train in Anchorage to treat minor injuries and basic health care. They would then go back to their villages to help. It is a really great program that provided care to a lot of people who needed it!

aksexyfro3548 karma

What an amazing role model and story! I am about to move to Alaska in August--what are your top things to see while I live there?

TheRogueBludger53 karma

Where are you going to live?

codemonkey69696948 karma

Was your salary comparable to Dr's in the lower 48?

TheRogueBludger147 karma

Oh heaven's no! Not even comparable! I did not make much compared to my friends in the continental US. Since I was the only doctor I was also on call every night, and on duty every day! When I went to the villages I worked around the clock. I was still paid for 5 days a week from 8-2 AM. And less than most of my friends!

MakeT0nightStay48 karma

Two things:


  2. Where do you live now?

TheRogueBludger79 karma

  1. "Hahahahahaha!"

  2. I'm now in Central Oregon! Not Alaska, but it's a nice town to live in.


My Aunt and Uncle ran A fishing lodge in Port Alsworth, and on occasion would visit Dick Proenneke. They said it was obligatory to bring him sweets when you visited. Did you ever visit him? Do you have any stories in that regard?

TheRogueBludger46 karma

I never got the chance to meet him, but that is a really neat story!

anyesuki45 karma

You are the kind of person I really look up to! Women like you paved the way to me being able to go to college and get a Masters degree. (And I may go back for more!) So thank you!

Onto my question: What experience would you say gave you energy to keep going strong when you were tired?

TheRogueBludger67 karma

I just knew that there were always people that needed me and so I had to keep going. Now that I'm 92 I get to relax sometimes, which is nice!

captainwelch41 karma

4th-year medical student here, going into rural family medicine next year. All of your answers have been fantastic. What advice do you have to offer the next generation of rural physicians?

TheRogueBludger63 karma

Always know that someone needs you! You may have to learn new tricks on the job but you should be able to pick them up as you go along.

fantumn40 karma

My sister-in-law is a pediatrician outside Anchorage treating primarily native Alaskan peoples, with a hope to become a bush doctor/bring more complete medical care to the isolated villages. Do you have any suggestions for her to fulfill her dream? Any way for her to become a more effective resource for them to use?

TheRogueBludger68 karma

Apply to the bureau of Indian Affairs and start making connections. She can also try to get small jobs working as a specialist or something with the native villages. Good for her!

Amarae40 karma

Okay I need to know what a Bush Doctor is and google keeps telling me it's some Jamaican album

Bush Doctor is the third studio album by Jamaican singer Peter Tosh. It was released in 1978.

Someone help?

TheRogueBludger88 karma

Rural Alaska is called the Alaska Bush sometimes. But I like Jamaica too.

astupidmillennial40 karma

Amazing, indeed.

My question(s):

  1. How did you cope with having to abandon your country of origin?

  2. What was life like after moving to the US? What challenges did you face, in terms of residency, job opportunities, finances and what not?

TheRogueBludger116 karma

So I was actually born in Philadelphia, but moved to Cuba when I was a few months old. My father was a missionary there and so we stayed in very small villages, underwent a few hurricanes and the start of the revolution. When we came back it was fairly simple for me to integrate back into the American lifestyle. We just couldn't go shoeless everywhere in America!

Ohm_eye_God37 karma

The most amazing iama, and woman, I've ever encountered. Thanks for being here.

My question; Ulu much?

TheRogueBludger33 karma

We always used Ulu! They are so convenient.

pulplesspulp35 karma

Hi, you have an amazing story! I was wondering what made you start to want to be a bush doctor? Thank you for doing this AMA

TheRogueBludger64 karma

I wanted to have an adventure! And Alaska seemed like a good place for that.

Pgharty29 karma

Thank you for doing this! I'm going to pick up your book and your answers to these questions have been amazing! My question is did you meet your husband through your time in Alaska? Was he also in the medical field?

TheRogueBludger44 karma

Yes, my first husband was Dutch and traveling through Alaska at the time. My second husband was also a general practitioner that I had gotten to know during my time in Anchorage.

bluecontainer27 karma

I have read many Alaskan stories and books. Being from central Europe, this place has always been a favourite to me for the vast, empty landscape.

I spent a month vacation there years ago and yearn to return again. While there, I picked up Shadows on the Koyukuk, the story and life of Sidney Huntington. I re-read that book many times and it starts to fall apart!

Sidney had a large family, did you ever meet any of them, or even the man himself? I believe he died in the late 90's?

TheRogueBludger34 karma

Yes, I met him somewhere along the road! That is very funny, but I do remember him somewhat.

BroManDudeGuyPhD26 karma

As a Louisiana native and having recently gone to Alaska, wow! I cant imagine the transition you've gone through in life, and it's incredible what you have done!!

In your rapidly changing life where did you consider home? Was it where you spent the most time, or somewhere you enjoyed the most?

Also, wow, what a huge responsibility. 18 Villages. Did it ever feel like too much?

TheRogueBludger44 karma

No, it never felt like too much, I always liked going back and seeing the patients grow up.

I would probably call Alaska my home because I grew up and matured during my time there!

hendokatie25 karma

This has got to be one of the most enjoyable AMA's that I have ever read through!

  1. What is some life advice you can give to a 21 year old who is currently studying to be a nurse?
  2. How did you meet your husband?
  3. What was your favorite meal in Alaska?

Again, I know so many people have said this, but thank you so much for this AMA! It has honestly made my day :)

TheRogueBludger28 karma

  1. Just know that people always need you, even if they say otherwise in a hospital setting! My daughter and granddaughter are both nurses and you have a world of opportunity open for you.

  2. I met my husband in Anchorage as he was also a general practitioner there.

  3. I ate a lot of really good chocolate in rural alaska.

earbud_smegma24 karma

Ma'am, I am struggling to come up with a good question because you just seem like such a fantastic lady. Thank you so much for doing this!

Do you have any vices? What do you like to do for fun and relaxation?

TheRogueBludger85 karma

I do sitting yoga twice a week and water aerobics three times a week. And I do like a martini with a good olive sometimes!

catjuggler24 karma

What was medical school like in the late 40's?

TheRogueBludger105 karma

Well, the first time you got in your anatomy class the professor said "look at the person on the right and on the left... one of you won't be here next year". Not very comforting!

In anatomy all the grades were in the 50s the first exam to scare us all. But I hear that is pretty similar to nowadays! All the bodies were in these big tin vats, and you had to crank them up so you could get to them and it was so smelly with the formaldehyde. After a couple weeks you stopped smelling it! When we were drilling into the brain it all spilled out and I wasn't able to eat tapioca pudding for about 40 years!

Medical residency in New Orleans was fun though. I used to ride the ambulance and the guy was still shooting from the rooftop, and the driver and I had to crouch down behind the ambulance to get the victim and try to avoid getting shot by the man on the roof. That was fun. Then there was a seizure patient another time and all the bystanders held him down so I could get an IV in. They liked to help! I paid $40 a month at the apartment I stayed in for rent and 2 meals a day. It was a good experience!

OatsmeGoats23 karma

Hello! My family is from northwestern Alaska, I was wondering if you went to any villages out there? My Dad was from Nome. Did you ever fly with Foster Aviation by chance? Thanks for the AMA!

TheRogueBludger38 karma

No, we never ventured that far, but I only ever flew with Hansen, my pilot. That is really great though, I have been to Nome to visit many times! It's a nice town.

2chicken2burp21 karma

Hi, ma'am! You're an incredibly inspiring human being. Thanks for doing an AMA!

My question is - as one of the first female bush doctors, did you face any struggles/discrimination due to your gender? How did you deal with it all?

TheRogueBludger73 karma

Not really much sexism in Tanana! I was the only doctor there so they just accepted that a doctor could be a woman. When I was at LSU it was more obvious that there was sexism. But that's why I liked alaska so much!

alwaysusingwit19 karma

Hi there! Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm curious to know about your early childhood in Cuba. What are some of your memories from the island? Strong contrast between Alaska and the tropics. My father was Cuban and he and his nuclear family emigrated to the states in the early 70's when he was 10ish. He always missed the place but never went back.

TheRogueBludger50 karma

I've never gone back either, it's difficult. I loved to tan and be mistaken for Cuban when I was little. I used to play marbles with the boys and beat them. I loved to swim and climb up on the mens shoulders and dive off the top. I loved going barefoot and walking in the mud. We ended up with every parasite you can imagine from that. The doctor in Philadelphia was shocked when we got back to the states.

We survived a huge hurricane while we were living in LaGloria, and saw our house and the church blow away, but we are the rest of the villagers were huddled in the one stone building. We ate a lot of rice. But we loved the Cuban lifestyle and miss it as well.

diiaa3618 karma

Hey, Thank you for doing this. I am currently in second year of medical school and contemplating doing my residency and to practice Family Medicine in Alaska.I've always been in awe of the state for some reason even though I have never been there. What are your opinions on medicine there? Why did you select to go there?

TheRogueBludger34 karma

I went there for the adventure! You can choose the adventure side and you can usually work pretty independently. I would not have left Alaska but my husband was very sick so we moved to Oregon 5 years ago.

StormTrooper_18G818 karma

WOAH! so how hard was it to walk villages without roads?

TheRogueBludger32 karma

We would either fly or go by dogsled actually.

grumpy_gardner18 karma

My grandmother is said to have known you. She had your book since it came out I think. She read it often, as did my mom. How many plane crashs did you have to deal with ? I know super cubs seem to go down every couple of weeks.

TheRogueBludger26 karma

Who is your grandmother? I dealt with quite a few plane crashes, several a year!

DopeandDiamonds15 karma

You are an amazing woman.

My question may be a little strange but an answer would help me a lot.

I was born in Alaska on a military base. I lived there with my family until I was about four. My mother said I rarely slept and she said the doctors said it was because I was not able to handle the long day and night cycle. I still have trouble sleeping to this day.

Did you ever experience this with babies? Is this a real thing or just a doctor giving my mom a made up answer? Any thing I can do now to help change my sleep cycle? We moved to New England after my dad left the military and doctors here said it was not a real answer she was given.

TheRogueBludger25 karma

Maybe try a sleep clinic? That might work! I never noticed any real problems, they would just play until late and wake up early, but didn't have a terrible time sleeping when they got tired!

rade77515 karma

Wow, awesome AMA, a very unique one as I've been on reddit for a while for sure. Here's a simple question, how did you deal with all the snow and cold?

TheRogueBludger26 karma

I love the snow and cold... I was hoping that it would get down to 80 below while I was there but it was only 67 below. I just wear a parka!

Sophosticated13 karma

Do you have dentures? How early in life did you get them?

TheRogueBludger105 karma

Full set of original teeth! I floss!

CHlMlCHANGAS13 karma

You sound like an amazing woman, I'm so happy to see this AMA!

Are there any advancements in modern medicine you find particularly exciting?

TheRogueBludger31 karma

Surgical procedures, medical changes, new medicines... the cancer advances have been the most amazing things. Love seeing the improvement in pediatric care too!


Holy moly. You seem like an unbelievable hero. They don't make em like they used to. I'm sure there's a lot of little bush girls who see you as a legend.

What would a 9 year old version of you think of you right now?

TheRogueBludger32 karma

She'd wonder why I have to wear shoes all the time.

Electroniclog6 karma

Hi :)

I am curious to know, have you ever been chased by a polar bear? If so, how did that go for you? That's my only question, I'll take my answer off air. Thanks.

TheRogueBludger14 karma

No Polar Bears, but I was almost run over by a grizzly once!

Amishhellcat6 karma

did you fly the plane? Was the plane in the air while you delivered the baby? who flew if you delivered the baby while the plane was flying?

TheRogueBludger27 karma

Hanson was my pilot for all my expeditions. Most definitely in the air! She was bleeding and so I consulted with the midwife and husband and decided to fly her to the hospital, but she delivered in the plane. I had my seat taken out during the delivery, it was very cold because the heater was out. So I took off my parki and had the little blanket from the hospital, so I wrapped the baby in the blanket and the parki. She was named Josephine Jean (Jean after me). If she was a boy she would have been Garfield (after my pilot).

ghost16676 karma

Do you know about the fate of Charity Hospital since Katrina? Have you seen the documentary? https://vimeo.com/122496816

TheRogueBludger13 karma

Yes, I was very sad to hear about it, because it has a lot of history and a lot of memories.

mdbenavides226 karma

Hello so my question is what is the #1 item you would take with you when walking out your door or if it was a back pack what items did it contain?

I want to live in the wilderness of Alaska for a month or two lol its on my bucket list and there isn't too many items on it so I may have luck in doing so...

I'm probably going to purchase your books as well thank you for sharing 😊

TheRogueBludger7 karma

I always had my medical kit with me, which had my equipment that I would need for most situations. I think it is a beautiful area to spend some time!

Jessica_Iowa6 karma

What drew you to Alaska?

As technology changes how has your interactions with the world around you changed?

TheRogueBludger11 karma

I wanted an adventure... I applied to Japan as part of the Atomic Bomb Charity Comission as well as Alaska and Alaska got back to me first! I really like the technology now but it is hard to keep the same personal touch with people now I find.

mnhoops5 karma

Alaska is en vogue right now it seems as every time I turn on the TV there's a new Alaskan-themed show. You've obviously seen Alaska's popularity ebb and flow over your years. But it's no longer the gold rush nor the oil rush.

Any insight into why people are so interested right now?

TheRogueBludger23 karma

Maybe because it is idea of the wild unknown and the last frontier.

napkin-grabber3 karma

Have you ever delivered a baby in a 5-seat plane?

TheRogueBludger4 karma

I'm still young yet.

bradharmar3 karma

This might be an incredible long shot, but on the podcast Dear Hank & John there was an email from a girl trying to find the plane she was born in.

By some crazy coincidence, are you the doctor who performed this delivery, or is this just a crazy coincidence that I've heard about something like this happening twice in a few weeks?

TheRogueBludger4 karma

Was her name Josephine Jean?

epicmeli2 karma

A question:

What's your favourite thing to do during the day?

I also want to say that you're absolutely amazing and please have a lovely, lovely day.

TheRogueBludger21 karma

I do water aerobics 3 times a week, which I love! And sitting yoga the other two days. It's a nice way to get out and see people.

jhmcintire911 karma

Hi! Did you know my grandfather? Daniel McIntire? or my grandmother, Mary Crane?

He was diagnosed with dementia when I was young and I don't know hardly anything about him so I always take a shot to learn more! He did his residency at Charity Hospital around that same time and I believe his brothers did too. That is also where he met my grandmother Mary Crane! She worked at Charity as well!

TheRogueBludger3 karma

My memory for names isn't great anymore, but that is a distinct possibility!

-MrMooky-1 karma

  1. Were all four seats taken?
  2. If so, where did the baby sit after being born?

TheRogueBludger3 karma

Only two seats because we had the pregnant mother in there. Only the patient and pilot had seats. We were doing ok and then we dropped in an air pocket and the woman said "doctor, it's coming!" so I had to figure out how to deliver the baby in the air. It was exciting! The mother held the baby and she was in a blanket and a parka.

alaskafish1 karma

Alaska! Awesome!

Quick question:

Anchorage or Fairbanks?

TheRogueBludger4 karma

Well, Tanana is 140 miles west of Fairbanks and I lived there! 2 years in Anchorage, 4 years in Bethel, and then back to Anchorage after that until 5 years ago!

Ballsdeepinreality1 karma

This is a weird one, but prior to leaving the profession/Alaska, did you notice companies buying up medical practices/hospitals in the area?

UnityPoint, Trinity, or Ascension health networks?

TheRogueBludger6 karma

Not to my knowledge by the time I left, but maybe they are now more so!

pitchesandthrows-36 karma

Why did you vote for Trump?

TheRogueBludger65 karma

You mean Putin's Puppet? I didn't. And marched in the women's march and the march for science. He's making me stick around until he is impeached, quits or the four years are done!