Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Monday, January 25, 2016

'Flu Nurse

I had a little bird,
Its name was Enza.
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza.
-A children’s skipping rope chant from the 1918 flu epidemic

The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster.

My Grandmother, Sarah Lovina Stringam was the nurse in the tiny town of Glenwood, Alberta. Called upon for everything from bruises and scrapes to severe frostbite, she became accepted as the hands and knowledge that made the difference between life and death.
Then came 1918. The Great and horrible war was finally winding down.
The Spanish Flu epidemic was just getting started . . . 
From her journals and in her own words, Grandma gives us quite a glimpse of her life at that time:
I did quite a bit of nursing during the year of the flu epidemic, both for the family and for the neighbours.  It was frightening because there were so many deaths, especially women who were pregnant.
One of our hired men was the first to have it at our house. I kept him in his room and wouldn’t let him out until he was over it. My husband took it next and I kept him isolated from the rest of the family until he was well. He was just over it when Lono Brown, one of our friends, came to see if I would help him with his wife.
Lono’s first wife had died a few years before, leaving him with two small boys. He had married a young widow from Utah with two small girls. They had been married less than a year.
I told him, when he came for me, that I was still nursing a baby and would have to come home every four or five hours for that.
There was only one telephone in Glenwood, a toll office at the home of Edward Leavitt. He took me to the telephone and we talked to the doctor.
The doctor was getting only two to four hours sleep a day and just couldn’t keep up with all the calls. He told me what to do and said he could come as soon as he could.
For three days, I went to the Brown home and did what I could.
Every few hours I would go home and drop my clothing into a box in our wash house to fumigate them. Then I would change into clothing I kept in another box and go into my home to nurse the baby and see how the household was managing.
Eldest daughter, Emily was twelve at that time.
On the fourth day, Sister Brown, who was six months pregnant started with labour pains. By this time the doctor had come. He stayed for a while but it looked like it would be some time before the baby came and there were other people needing him so much so he decided he had better go.
Right after he went it looked as if things were going to happen so I asked Lono to go for a midwife, Sister Newby.
She came and delivered the baby, who was stillborn.
She said because she was a midwife she was not allowed to handle a dead body. She told me how to wash and prepare the baby for burial and when I had finished, she went home.
The next few hours were hard. I kept praying that her [Mrs. Brown’s] life would be spared because of the children and because she was so far away from her old home and her people but she kept getting weaker and weaker.
She died about six hours after the baby.
Sister Newby came back and told me what to do to prepare her for burial.
I did it and I was surprised that I was able to do it. It was a testimony to me that you can receive divine guidance in time of need if you ask for it.”
What a truly heartbreaking and terrifying experience. I admire my grandmother and others, like her, who simply ‘carried on’ and made all the difference in their world.
Thank you.

6 comments:

  1. As you said, heartbreaking and terrifying. Especially with a baby of her own.

    And such a matter-of-fact recording of it all. The ones who came before us were made of stern stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow. What a story. What a woman. I wonder if any of us, today, could carry on with such composure.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a harrowing story! I just can't imagine how difficult life must have been in that time and then add sickness, it is almost crushing. Your Grand Mother was a hero!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your grandmother was a very strong woman and this is carried through in yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  5. One does what one has to do in times of trouble. She was an amazing woman.

    ReplyDelete
  6. we have no idea what living in those times was like do we? our little ups and downs pale into insignificance in comparison. what a story!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting! Drop by again!

All of My Friends

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at Amazon.com and .ca and Chapters.ca and other fine bookstores.

Follow by Email

Hugs, Delivered.

Compass Book Ratings

Compass Book Ratings

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

Google+ Followers

Networked Blogs

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series

SnowMan

SnowMan
A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.

Translate

My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

About the Mom

My photo

Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven

Essence

Essence
A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from Smashwords.com

The Babysitter

The Babysitter
A baby-kidnapping ring has its eye on J'Aime and her tiny niece.

Melissa

Melissa
Haunted by her past, Melissa must carve a future. Without Cain.

Devon

Devon
Following tragedy, Devon retreats to the solitude of the prairie. Until a girl is dropped in his lap.

Pearl, Why You Little...

Pearl, Why You Little...
Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

The Marketing Mentress
Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

Coffee Row

Coffee Row
My Big Brother's Stories

Better Blogger Network

Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis
I've been given an award!!!

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
My good friend and Amazing Blogger, Marcia of Menopausal Mother awarded me . . .

Irresistibly Sweet Award

Irresistibly Sweet Award
Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

Sunshine Award!!!

Sunshine Award!!!
My good friend Red from Oz has nominated me!!!

My very own Humorous Blogger Award From Delores at The Feathered Nest!

Be Courageous!


Grab and Add!

Search This Blog

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?