This week, TR and I got the flu. The season has been nasty this year – our nurse informed us that only 30% of people who were immunized escaped infection – and just as predicted, 2 of the 3 of us did not escape Influenza A. It was certainly a trial for us. Not because anything particularly scary happened but rather because it was the first major illness we weathered together. Also, if I’ve learned anything from this project, it’s that disease is terrifying, merciless, and completely random. So with that, welcome to another fun, hilarious post on Living Like Great Grandma.
In 1918, my great-grandmothers weathered a frightening year as the Spanish flu spread rapidly across the world, transferred between soldiers fighting in Europe at the same time as it wreaked havoc across the home-front. Doing research at work a month or two ago, I found a Gold-Star roll for a young nurse who never even made it to the front because she spent her time nursing flu victims here at home. The reason she was on the Gold-Star roll? She fell victim to the disease herself. The flu pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people in 1918, including about 675,000 Americans including 12,000 here in Minnesota. My GG Loney’s mother died of the Spanish flu, leaving her children effectively orphaned as their father mysteriously disappeared. My GG Loney ended up living with her mother’s sister in Duluth. TR and I did okay and recovered in about a week. His fever lasted all Friday and it was so miserable for him, but from my perspective, I got to cuddle with my baby for exactly 100% of our day. So selfishly, I kind of enjoyed that. TR started an upswing in the next couple of days but it was slow. I meanwhile crashed and burned (probably because I let him sneeze in my face) and laid shivering in bed most of Monday. But TR relapsed a bit on Monday too, so my husband came home and tried to take him to the doctor. Except… we got snowed in. We got in the next morning and I very bravely got tested for both strep and the flu on TR’s behalf. The nurse agreed that we were mostly likely sick with the same thing so why torture the baby when I could take the fall for him. The throat culture was a monster I knew. Q-tip down the throat, swab swab swab, gag gag gag, you’re done. I had never encountered the flu test before. My mom is a nurse. Growing up, our flu experience was always in quarantine in the basement, tucked into the hidabed, watching TV, and moaning miserably while Mom brought us cool washrags to put on our foreheads. She never let us out of the house. So anyway, I never encountered the flu test before. Those of you who have, you know where this is going. The nurse turned around with a little white mascara wand on the end of a long stick and said, “This one goes in the nose.” I’m sorry, what? That was horrible. It made me want to sneeze, cry, and gag all at once. There was one thing I knew for sure. I was really glad I could spare TR from that one. Well, we were able to conclusively confirm that TR and I had Influenza A. I got a Tamiflu prescription for myself and we got advice on how to take care of TR at home (it was mostly a therapy session for the new parents than it was a diagnosis and treatment of the child). Luckily, because of the snowstorm, we were basically the only people in the clinic. I still rocked my medical face mask anyway.
The flu has been nasty this year. It’s squaring up to be as bad as the 2014-15 season, which saw the deaths of 56,000 Americans. It’s hard to imagine people dying from something as simple as the flu but it still happens. A woman I knew from a college internship in New York died from flu complications this year and I couldn’t fathom it. It’s crazy to think about when so many of us has had the flu and just felt like crap for a few days. The realization that the world is so full of chaotic random circumstance is one part of new parenthood that I’m still trying to figure out.