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Diphtheria Epidemic

Heroes Remember

We had a terrible epidemic of diphtheria in January, but I think it was February, I can’t remember dates at all. The “push to the Rhine” started and then the casualties just, it was incredible the amount of casualties we had. Somebody once told me, I don’t know if it was true, that we had more casualties go through the hospital in 30 days than any other hospital had ever had. It was, we just never stopped. Once they were stable they were into, onto an aircraft and over to U.K. The RCAF run the most marvellous service, evacuation, it was just wonderful. They could take so many, so many litters of stretchers, or so many sitting. They called them lyers and sitters, and once they were able to travel they were gone. So you never really got to know these patients, you know. Other things we had of course, they made it so marvelous for the men and for us, were things like penicillin. We had a wonderful whole blood supply. The blood was brought to us ready to, all we had to do was reconstitute it. Whole blood and lots of plasma. All the plasma, we could us just reconstitute it with distilled water or a saline, and we didn’t even have to clean up the equipment. It all went back in the packing boxes and more blood and more blood substitutes arrived. We had a whole series of things that other people didn’t have in World War One. Like their patients stayed with terrible, terrible infections for weeks and weeks and weeks, and we had our marvelous penicillin. It was a lot of work. You had to give it every three hours. The boys didn’t like it very much but anyway, it was so, it was like a miracle. And we had pentothal for an anaesthetic which was marvellous because you need it to give to patients. Just enough to carry through the operation and you can lift it so that by the time the surgery is over the patient is becoming conscious. Because there was no, there was no vomiting and all this sort of thing that went along with general anaesthetics before the war, so that was another wonderful thing that we had was pentothal. So we were fortunate in the blessings that we had and of course the other thing was we had great pals and great friends and everybody worked like Billy be damned. Everybody was going full out and nobody, you didn’t hear complaints or silly stuff. It was just, everybody was in it up to their heads and over, and everybody knew everybody else was trying their very hardest. So there wasn’t any back biting sort of stuff.

Ms. Sloan describes her medical involvement during a diphtheria epidemic during the “push to the Rhine” and how fortunate they were to have sufficient supplies of penicillin, penathol and plasma to treat the casualties

Hallie Sloan

Hallie Sloan was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1920. At age ten, she and her family moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Ms. Sloan always had the desire to become a nurse and moved to Vancouver where she obtained a nursing degree at the Vancouver General Hospital. When war was declared she became very anxious to serve her country in the medical field. She decided to join the army. She held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and Matron-in-Chief in the Medical Service, serving in Germany and many parts of Canada. After the war, Hallie continued her nursing career and devoted much of her time towards advocating the vital part that nursing sisters played during wartime service and post-war. Ms. Sloan was the National President of the Nursing Association of Canada (1994-1996) and was active in volunteer work. She has become a strong role model for the Nursing Sisters Association.

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Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Hallie Sloan
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War

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