Four years after a devastating tent fire claimed all but one member of her immediate family, Nina Kautuq is travelling to Winnipeg to meet with the medical team who cared for her husband Ikie before he died.
“There’s a piece I need to find,” said Kautuq.
Kautuq was not with Ikie when he passed. She was in Ottawa, receiving care with her children, aged two to 11. Kautuq and Jutanie, then two, were the only survivors.
The family of six was camping two hours west of Pond Inlet in August 2015 when a fire broke out in the tent in which they slept.
“That was difficult for me. Why they didn’t have us all together in one place … I have never really heard the whole story. I was told he was in ICU (intensive care unit) in Winnipeg, then the next day I knew he died,” said Kautuq.
She has never seen her husband’s body.
“Sometimes I look for him. I know that he’s dead, but sometimes my mind just plays with me. It says, ‘Maybe he’s not dead. Maybe he’s pretending. What if he just walks in,'” she said. “I’m really hoping that meeting the ICU team and hearing the whole story will help me to stop searching and waiting for him.”
Former nurse Teresa Perryman organized the trip to Winnipeg hoping to help her friend of more than 10 years find greater peace. First Air is providing the return tickets.
Accommodations in Winnipeg are taken care of, but there are a few nights in Ottawa that need funding. To that end, a Go Fund Me campaign has been initiated.
“Nina, her family, and I had grown a friendship,” said Perryman, who first met Kautuq while working in Clyde River, then in Pond Inlet.
Perryman recalls Ottawa nurses sending hearts with messages for the grieving wife and mother.
“I took Nina out for a drive. I started reading them to her because it was so emotional for her. We were close,” said Perryman, who recalls how much meeting the Ottawa medical team mattered to her friend.
Kautuq added, “This winter, we met the ICU team and doctors that took care of my three children prior to their passing. That helped me so much. I think meeting the ICU team that took care of my husband will help me.”
Perryman will attend the meeting via conference call to support her friend.
“That makes me feel better. She’s very supportive. I am so thankful for her, for helping with this. She made everything possible. I thank her so much, all the way to my core,” said Kautuq.
Her voice brightens when she speaks of Jutanie, who will turn seven in November and will travel with her to Winnipeg.
“He’s doing so much better. He’s becoming a kid, like I wanted him to be. I didn’t want him to become aggressive, and not being like a child. He is becoming a child. I’m happy for that,” she said.
“He was only two when the accident happened, but he remembers the majority of it. He remembers his siblings, his father, what had happened. He tells stories. He’s able to talk with someone who he’s comfortable with.”