Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Killer of 1918.

In retrospect, I should have realized something was wrong on the drive to work. I was wearing a parka over a jacket, and Lowe Alpine leggings under my jeans, and I was still so cold I was shivering and my teeth were chattering. I was running both the heater and the seat heaters in the car. And it was sixty-eight degrees out.

I stayed at work long enough to phone my weekly order in to the wholesaler, then doused everything I'd touched in Lysol and excused myself to go to the doctor's office. It turns out I was running a fever of 103.6, with a resting pulse rate of 112 bpm. Festive. Yup, it was the flu. I took my prescriptions for Tamiflu and Pseudoephedrine/Guaifenesin to the grocery store to get them filled, stocked up on Gatorade and 7-Up Plus, and... and... I can't even remember which route I drove to get home. Things were looking pretty grim for the home team.

Bear in mind that I felt that way after being doped to the gills on Dayquil and aspirin. That I'd been able to keep myself hydrated thanks to a plentiful supply of Gatorade. That I could keep myself fed with little effort, and travel via automobile. That my house was heated by electricity and propane.

Now imagine the clock being set back eighty-eight years to 1918. Would I have had the strength to pump a well? Saddle a horse? Chop firewood? Walk to market to get food? How bad would I have felt without the over-the-counter drugs I'd already taken? Little wonder that an influenza pandemic could have such a devastating effect; it made folks too weak to do the things they needed to do to go on living. Not only that, but there are all the infections that tag along with the flu; in those pre-antibiotics days, pneumonia was as good as a death sentence.

Every now and again I'm reminded that the past may be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to get sick there.


theirritablearchitect said...

Once had a fever of 104. Couldn't even find the bathroom I was so dizzy. You begin to hallucinate with fevers in that range, and your sense of time almost disappears as well as your depth perception. You are lucky you had the capacity to drive.

Glad to know you are amongst the living again. The hydration thing is important with a virus, so stay with the Gatorade.

Anonymous said...

Straight Gatorade has way to much salts and stuff to drink exclusively. I hope you are drinking some water too.

Anonymous said...

+1 on the water. Juice is always good, too. Nothing like a cold glass of OJ or...AJ?...when you are dehydrated.

ps - anyone else notice the irony? TAM-iflu... :)

pps - Hope you get well soon. I need someone to answer all my "do we have this in stock?" questions.

Anonymous said...

Hey, hey, hey, that's close to 40°C! I'm getting worried.

Re: Gatorade
I'm pretty sure you drop by now and then and already know about the need to dilute it with water. ;-)

Get well soon!


Anonymous said...

35 years ago I worked with an elderly fellow who'd survived the 1918 pandemic in Kansas. A seven year old boy at the time, the fever took him down and he awoke to a cold farmhouse. He found his whole family was dead. He built a fire, fed himself, got dressed and walked to the next farm to get help.

Everyone there was dead.

He said he thought he was the last person left alive on earth, and he thought about taking his own life, because he didn't want to BE the last person alive on earth. But he walked to the next farm, where there were still people alive.

He's the reason I get a flu shot every year. Thank you, modern medicine, for favors small and large.

Anonymous said...

I think the possibility of getting sick encouraged many people to raise children who were willing to do chores.

Get well soon, Tam!

Elmo's aphasiatic twin said...

Glad you got home okay, Tam. THe flu here this year has a second wave. People think they're just about over it, try to get back to routinue, and then wind up in the hospital.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least this officially makes you one hot chick! :-)

Although that may not be much of a consolation in these birdflu times...

Get well soon!

TFL'er Ultimathule

Billll said...

Now throw in fairly common infection of TB and imagine your respritory system. There was a LOT less TB in 1920.
Chicken soup is good.
Chicken soup with Hellfire & Damnation (r) sauce in it will heal the sick and raise the dead.
Good luck.

phlegmfatale said...

Ah, but you're still pretty damned resourceful, even by 1918 standards. I think you'd make it even then. Hope you're on the mend already.

Anonymous said...

Also in 1918

You might have had a lot poorer diet too, fresh fruits and veggies in March... not funny.

If you were european, the WWI had just ended sending huge waves of tired and sick demobbed soldiers home. (See also poor diets, many many households with missing males who have helped raising crops normally)

No vitamins, bugger all inthe way of useful drugs.

Fairlane64 said...

I just stumbled onto this article while doing some searching/reading about the 1918 flu:

I don't know if I am convinced by the article, but it's still an interesting theory nonetheless.

An interesting side note, I do remember year ago my Grandparents (I live in Kansas) talking about the great flu of 1918. From their accounts it seemed that almost everybody they knew (including themselves) either got that flu or knew somebody who died from it. What a terrible tragedy....

Fairlane64 said...

That should have said "years ago", not "year ago", my Grandparents have been gone for quite some time...

Anonymous said...

You want to put that "one hot chick" comment away for a day when it will really make you laugh.
1918: No, I'm not THAT olde. But in the mid-60s I bowled with the Church League of the Oranges (NJ), which was the "oldest, established church bowling league in America". Started with duckpins. One of the bowlers was in the cavalry in WWI. He said that the rich kids managed to stay home, while he went to France. He survived; most of them died. He understood the irony of it, but found it still stayed on his mind. OldeForce

Chas S. Clifton said...

If you had the 1918 flu, your lungs would have filled with fluid and you would have suffocated while driving home from the store.

I think I went through a similar experience last year, but neither of us had the 1918 flu!