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Influenza; Kiss a Nurse Day; Visiting Family; SOARing

“Have you gotten your flu shot?” How often do we see that poster in doctors’ offices? I thought about influenza when Suzanne told me about a client whose mother was the only survivor of her grandmother’s six children; the others had died of bronchitis, but the root cause was probably influenza. Fortunately, outbreaks of influenza in the late 20th and 21st Centuries have been relatively minor compared to the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1920, which took over 50 million lives worldwide, the most devastating epidemic in history. By comparison, more people died in one year from influenza than died in the Black Death Bubonic Plague of 1347-1351 or in World War I, when 16 million lives were lost. This nurse at an emergency field hospital may have been one of the 700 recruited in October 1918 by the US Public Health Service to help the 1,000 doctors who signed up to fight the epidemic. Fewer nurses than doctors were available because many nurses had already succumbed during the initial months of the pandemic, due to their closer proximity to and interaction with those afflicted with the disease.

Trains, buses, trolleys and department stores were ideal locations for transmission of the disease, and great efforts were made to get people to wear protective masks. In this photo, a Seattle street car conductor is refusing to allow the gentleman without a gauze mask aboard his trolley. People were advised to wear masks at all times, even indoors.

The close quarters and movements of hundreds of thousands of troops in World War I contributed to the spread of influenza. Military barracks were especially hard hit; this photo taken at Camp Riley, Kansas, shows hundreds stricken with the flu. In fact, the disease was first noted in the US in Haskell County, Kansas. One report from the head of the Army’s Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot reported that of 1500 workers, 1100 were out sick at the same time. The mortality rate was 20-25 times greater than in previous epidemics, and the average life span in the US was reduced by 10 years. The worst affected place on earth was Western Samoa, then under New Zealand administration; 90% of the population was infected; 30% of men, 20% of women, and 10% of children died. Strangely, the disease hit hardest in the age group 20-40. There was even some black humor associated with the disease; children would skip rope to this rhyme:
I had a little bird,
Its name was Enza,
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza.

Okay, enough grim history… in keeping with The Villages’ mission statement, this is supposed to be a Happy Blog. Our motto is “Don’t worry… be happy!” In that vein, and recognizing the contributions of nurses worldwide, we will proclaim this “Kiss a Nurse Day”. (I may get a different kind of smack from My Lovely Bride for this, but Oh, well… it’s all for the greater good, right?) The first image, by the renowned photographer Edward Eisenstaedt, is the iconic Life magazine cover photo of a nurse being kissed by a sailor on V-J Day, August 9, 1945 in Times Square, NYC. The second photo shows the nurse, Edith Shain, standing by the statue erected in their honor. (Several men have claimed to be the sailor, and regrettably, Edith didn’t get his name. Typical sailor – he kisses the girl and vanishes!)

Recently we had the pleasure of getting together with some of Suzanne’s extended family who were visiting. Here are Brent, Cheryl, Olive (the shy one), Matthew, Ruthie, Eleanor and My Lovely Bride, the last two apparently having found something hysterical to yuck about. Ruthie seems to be wondering what her mom and MLB found so funny.

My back was still bothering me, so while Suzanne acted as tour guide for Eleanor, Olive, John, Beth and Chelsea on a canoe trip to Lake Griffin State Park, I walked Rudy and Gretchen and Matthew pushed Ruthie in her stroller around the park’s short hiking trail.

Our fearless canoeists found several alligators sunning themselves on the shore, and everyone seemed to enjoy the pleasant temperature and sunshine; what, isn’t Whitefish, Montana, warm this time of year? Actually, we’ve had more than our fair share of wet, raw days here in The Villages recently, but this was one of the best days this winter.

On Saturday Suzanne gave her SOAR! Workshop to over 50 enthusiastic attendees at Unity of The Villages. A hearty “Thank You!” to Karen Leonard, Marilyn Dyer and Bev Garlipp for helping Suzanne with registration and book sales.

Finally, for those of you who have called Suzanne “The Energizer Bunny”, let me show you a candid shot of her after the SOAR! Workshop, a glass of Chardonnay and my Famous Chicken Marsala; I thought that only Dachshunds could look that relaxed! 


  • Anonymous
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Alright Ty, you may get a different kind of smack than what you expect going around kissing nurses. Remember I took on a second career. The statue of the nurse and the sailor was in Auburn, IN a few years ago. The store behind it had a 48 star flag in the window and there was a Willy's Jeep parked at the curb.
    For the weather; Al Gore and his global warming are not in northern Indiana.

    Dale, RN, BSN.

  • Ty and Suzanne Giesemann
    Posted February 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Dale, Don't worry, I didn't plan on going around kissing male nurses!
    Just looked at the weather for your locale… high of 20, low of -2. Gee, doesn't that sound like fun? Or rather, "That doesn't sound like fun!"


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