I wasn’t going to talk about this. I didn’t want to be another echo in a steady line of chatter, but I have realized two things about this Coronavirus madness. If this panedemic has taught us anything, it is that we truly are as human beings are only concerned about ourselves and the cliche phrase “history repeats itself” rings true to our new reality.
Before I get too far, I should mention that I hardly watch the news. Honestly, I don’t have to, social media is doing its best that it is plastered in every newsfeed, tweet, and vlog. I understand the panic and worry over your financials; I may be a disabled, but I’m not an idiot! I feel for every person who is sick in the hospital forced away from their families and the ones who are upset about the fact that everything is being cancelled.
For the past two days, I have been going through our DVR watching documentaries that I had piled up for a number of weeks. The two I want to talk to you were broadcast on PBS and a part of it’s American Experience program.
The first was about the outbreak of Influenza in 1918-19. I knew from the time it started it was an older episode because of the quality of color on the screen. It was talking to people who were infected or had members of their own family and possibly friends that were diagnosed with it and died.
It featured a lot of elderly people talk about their childhoods before and after the sickness creped into their cities and towns. What really pulled me in was when the narrator explained that it didn’t start with children and their weak immune systems. Instead it was the soldiers in the army camps that were being taken out first. You have to remember that at the time, World War I was going on and the need for young and healthy men were desperately needed to help fight the cause overseas.
Unfortunately, the war wasn’t the only killing machine out there. When Influenza appeared in the spring of 1918, there is a possibility that 500 million people worldwide came down with the deadly virus. Once the war was over, the men who came home were “healthy” to the naked eye but the disease lingered in their bodies to spread into their families and friends who were happy as clams to have their loved one back. All of a sudden the happiness was shattered when more and more people were being knocked down by the symptoms of the virus. The world was put on pause, and businesses and whole families were put on lockdown.
At this time, radio was the only way people could have contact with the outside. There was no TV for young children who were either bored or sick in their beds. They got by with doing chores, schoolwork, and played with their siblings in their rooms. To me, it is a surprise the stock market didn’t crash when the virus showed up because nobody would go anywhere. They were too afraid to!
Even though mainstream medicine was popular in the homes of American people, some could be superstitious and say that God was punishing them for their sins. Satan was there to claim every single person affected with the influenza. However, like with most sicknesses, as quickly as it came in, it disappeared! It had ended just in time as World War I was over and soldiers stationed in Europe were allowed to return to their homes again. Everyone was back to their old selves like nothing ever happened.
The next morning I woke up, had breakfast and started watching my second documentary, this time it was about polio. Since this epidemic happened in the 1950’s, the talk about it was discussed a little bit more compared to the influenza outbreak. I heard it through both sides of my grandparents when I was younger. I never heard much talk about it while I was a teen and honestly neither one were discussed in school. You would hear someone talk about a fraction of what happened and that was pretty much it.
So, when I saw American Experience was going to re-air the episode about polio or infantile paralysis I knew it would keep me entertained for the lack of a better word.
Where the influenza had been affecting anyone from the ages to 20 to under 50, polio began to infect children the most. Adults were also struck with it too, such as future President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt or FDR for short. He was the one that everyone talked about in my family. I think it was to possibly show me that at one time we had a disabled President.
Anyways, the program was focused more on the relationship with FDR and his friend Basil O’Connor. He was put in charge of running the President’s fund and resort for more research done on polio. As influenza came and went fairly quickly, polio dragged on and on, infecting as many people as it could at various ages. Polio was known for headaches, dizziness, and eventually the loss of movement, which explains the technical term ‘infantile paralysis’.
If you have ever watched the episode of The Waltons, where their mother becomes diagnosed with polio. In the beginning you see this strong young woman become affected by a dark shadow one day. She could no longer control her arms or legs. She could no longer go outside by herself because it made her unable to walk or do anything by herself. This was common to everyone who had it. They could be permanent paralyzed and at the mercy of their families for support. Although for Mrs. Walton regained the usage of her body at the end of the show.
After Basil O’Connor met Jonas Salk, he began to look into the science behind this nasty curse. In 1953, it was announced that Dr. Salk had discovered the source of the problem and gave treatment on a number of people to test it. A year later it was said that the vaccine had worked and they moved to have it be given to everyone in America. Forty-four years later, it was said that polio had became extinct
Yet here we are again, in our own crisis, dealing with a brand new illness with really no end in sight.
History will continue to repeat itself over and over, to show us what we need to see again. When each sickness rolled into town, people seemed to be kind and stayed at home. They followed quarantine rules and religiously practiced social distancing, so to not affect anybody else with the virus. So, as we keep modern day Americans, Italians, English, etc keep gathering together for fun, we are only making everything worse.
I know you’re bored. I live at home, and rarely get to go out when the air is clear. It’s been over two weeks since I have seen my sister, brother-in-law and little nephew. Yes, I have seen and talked to them on FaceTime, but I love being face-to-face with people. So I ask you to please do everything you can to help eradicate this new virus, so we can go back to our normal lives and forget about it just like our ancestors did before us.