In the winter of 1972, after Christmas, I was a very sick young man. I had the flu. It wasn’t just any flu, but the dreaded Hong Kong flu that had everyone on edge. Back then we occasionally got sick, but it was usually the croup or a bad cold. Though we sometimes came down with influenza or “the flu,’ it was usually the 24 hour version, or a milder stomach flu that only lasted a day or so, but this time it was different.
Lots of people suffering from this illness did not survive, especially older folks. That particular cold winter night in January, I went to bed early not feeling well and woke up in the middle of the night with a slight fever feeling very sick to my stomach. By early morning, my temperature was up to 100 degrees and I was feeling rough. I could not keep any food down, not even Jello or chicken broth. My parents were very concerned due to the proliferation of the Hong Kong flu, but were hopeful I had something else and that by morning I would be feeling better, but such was not the case.
Our family physician was Dr. James W. Tirey in Anna, Ohio, and his office did not open until 9 a.m. So, Dad left for work with the understanding that he would come home at lunch time if I was not better and we would go to see Dr. Tirey. As the morning passed my condition deteriorated. I could barely move. My mother had to literally raise my head in order for me to take a small sip of water. She again took my temperature and it was now up to 104 degrees. Mom soaked a bed sheet with water, and after wringing it out, laid it on my fevered body to cool me off. I recall the sheet feeling like ice as it touched my body. Mom set up a small fan to encourage evaporation and soon the sheet was nearly dry. The process was repeated until my temperature subsided to a little over 100 degrees.
At this point, Mom had done all she could and was near panic mode when she heard our dog bark, looked out the window and saw a familiar car pull into the driveway; it was my Grandpa and Grandma Clayton. Dad had called from Airstream in Jackson Center and asked them to check in on us. I remember Grand-dad coming in an putting his hand on my fevered brow. The look I saw on his face was one I had never seen before. He turned to Mom and said, “We have to get this boy to the doctor right now!”
Mom put her hand behind my head and shoulders and pulling upward she told me to get up. My mind said, “git-up,” but I could barely move my arms, let alone get out of that bed. Grandpa then told Grandma to get the door and instructed Mom to wait for us at the car. Grandpa was 79-years-old and not in the best of health, I was 15 and though not a real big kid, I was not small either, and I was not able to help him in the least. Yet, that frail old man knew he had a job to do. He slipped one arm under my shoulders and the other under my bent legs, he groaned as he struggled to raise me off that bed and stand up — somehow, by the grace of God, Grandpa carried me outside and laid me in the back seat of that car. Mom covered me with a blanket and off we went to Anna.
The doctor came outside to the car, examined me, and told us it was most likely the bad flu that was going around. He went back inside and returned shortly with the nurse. He gave me two “shots” in my rear end, and the nurse gave Mom two small paper envelopes full of pills. Doc told Mom to get me back home right away and if I wasn’t better by morning or got worse during the night to take me to the hospital. By morning I was much better, the fever had subsided and I was able to keep some water down. I was on the mend.
Things were a lot different back then, there was no internet; and no one could ever have imagined the technology available today. Sharing any valuable information about available medical treatment was limited to interaction with a doctor, telephone calls (if you had a phone) and the U.S. mail. Progress in finding a cure for any disease was restricted and slow at best. We did the best we could with what we had. Our treatments varied from traditional home remedies and over the counter medications to pills, liquid meds and injections all distributed or administered by the family physician. Very rarely did anyone go to a hospital unless gravely ill. I’m very grateful for the advances in the testing and treatment to illness and injury since I was a kid. We’ve much to be thankful for!
I recently told this story to my wife and daughter one evening and shared my amazement of how my feeble 79 year old grandfather was able to pick me up and carry me to that car. With a look of seasoned wisdom and admiration in her eyes, my wife responded, “He carried you to that car, because he had too!” She was right, Grand-dad was just doing what he had to do to get the job done.
At present we are faced with a new breed of illness that has not only the United States, but the whole world in its grip. The situation has brought out the best in some of us, and the worst in others. Some have a heart of charity and watch out for their families, friends and neighbors helping out in any way they can, while others selfishly think only of themselves raiding the stores and hoarding the essentials needed by all and disregarding any advice on how to slow down the spread of the virus.
At present what we know about COVID-19 is a fraction of what we don’t know, so for now we best err on the side of caution. It may be a lot worse than the flu epidemics of the past, it may not, only time will tell. For now, I think we should follow Grand-dad Clayton’s example. Let’s all pitch in and do what we have to do to get the job done. Let’s do what is necessary to get back on track. Given a choice, be an asset, not a liability. Don’t endanger the lives of others by careless actions or put others in a bad situation by being selfish. Most of what we need to do is things we should have been doing already; most of what we experience in life is determined by the choices we make, choose wisely.
The writer, who resides in Sidney, is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.