Edith Olson Skofstad

Edith Olson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Nels Olson, was one of the first registered nurses in Griggs County.  She has spent her entire life here with the exception of the training period at St. Luke's School of Nursing in Fargo.  After her graduation she returned to Cooperstown to serve as Dr. M. D. Westley's regular assistant, serving in or out of his office as occasion demanded.  She continued her career after her marriage to Arnold Skofstad.

There was a feeling of security in having a nurse easily available in a small town like Cooperstown.  Most memorable, perhaps, was her attending the birth of a baby in an automobile.  On that occasion, Dr. Westley was removing tonsils and could not leave his patient.  Edith couldn't have gone, either, if ether had been used for an anesthetic, but on that occasion, a local had been administered, so the doctor could release his nurse.

As soon as he could safely leave his patient, he followed in another car, but by that time, the nurse had welcomed the baby, and the mother had been carried into the house where she originally planned to spend her confinement.  No harm came to either mother or child.

Of course, this emergency occurred at a time when transportation had made great advancements over the days of horse and buggy for summer and bobsled in winter, when the doctor would drive miles and miles out into the country to attend to the needs of his patients.  Sometimes, too, the assistance of a nurse was anticipated, and Edith bundled up and went, too.

One of the most frightening experiences recalled by Mrs. Skofstad occurred one winter night when the roads were blocked with snow and Dr. Westley was summoned to a farmhouse near Hannaford to attend the birth of a baby.  A severe blizzard had left the roads blocked, and it was decided that an attempt would be made to reach the place by plane.  It was a moonlight night, but even so, landing in a strange field would be a hazardous undertaking.  The nurse prepared to go too, but Dr. Westley turned to her and said, "You'd better stay at home, so one of us will be sure to be here."  That "one" had an ominous sound, and the nurse felt cold chills, now and then, while she waited for the plane to return.  Bruce Wright, the local pilot, was taking great risks for himself and his passenger, as he had no regular airport and had to land in open fields with no ground lights to help him.  The doctor stayed in Hannaford overnight and returned to Cooperstown on the train the next day.

Edith worked for Dr. Westley more than twenty years and for his son Kent for three years after he returned from his army service.  After that, he left for a residency in radiology in New York City.

When the hospital opened in Cooperstown, Edith was employed there.  She retired from full time work in 1965, but continued to work part time until the spring of 1972.

Among the more difficult problems of her career was walking to work at 6:30 AM during the blizzard of 1966.  She feels that the greatest discoveries in the science of medicine have been made during her lifetime.  She feels it has been a privilege to witness the change.

Source: Griggs County History 1879 - 1976  Page 79

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