The first reported cases of the 1918 influenza pandemic occurred in Spain, which gave the disease its nickname, ‘the Spanish flu’. The outbreak hit Great Britain in three waves, most notably as the First World War was drawing to a close, and was probably spread by soldiers returning home from the trenches on the Western Front. The speed with which the disease spread was devastating: a person could wake up perfectly healthy in the morning and be dead by the evening. Symptoms included fatigue, fever and headache, while some victims would go on to develop pneumonia and suffocate to death. The most peculiar aspect of the Spanish flu was that its most common victims were not children and the very old but young and healthy adults between 20 and 30 years of age. Doctors were helpless in the face of the disease. In Britain alone, some 228,000 are estimated to have died during 1918-1919, and the global death toll climbed to almost 50 million.
Monday 21 October
Dr: B. came in the morning, & Tom wasn’t better, so he is getting a nurse, as she has got pneumonia. Ione came round in the morning, & stayed nearly all day, & did messages etc: Muz asked Dr: B. to get a second opinion, so about tea time he & Sir Thomas Parkinson came, he was quite cheery about her, & said her lung would be quite alright. Dr B. came again in the evening. The nurse arrived about 8, & H. went to bed, & she & Muz stayed up, & H. came in at odd times. Tom better & her temp: down in the night. I slept a bit but had a horrid night.
Tuesday 22 October
Dr: B. came in the morning, Tom better, & her temp: down to 101. Ione came round in morning, & did shopping etc. Nurse stayed for a bit in the morning, then went out, & went to bed after lunch. Ione took Muz for a wee walk before lunch. In the aft: H. went out to shop. I wrote & looked at papers, but didn’t feel very well. Dr: B. didn’t come till eleven, so we were all very tired. Tom’s temp: almost down. H. went to bed, & Muz slept on the box, & nurse stayed up, & we all slept fairly well.
Wednesday 23 October
Dr: B. came in the morning, Tom’s temp 99.2 & mine normal for first time. Ione came round, but only stayed a wee while, & went back to bed. The Dr said he needn’t come tonight, unless we telephoned for him. I sat up in a chair for about ten minutes, but was awfully tired, & felt horrid. Dr. came again in the evening, & says Tom much better. H. went to bed, & nurse sat up, & Muz slept on the box, but was up & down all night. We all had quite a good night.
Thursday 24 Octobe
Dr. B. came in the morning & Tom’s temp: normal. Ione stayed in bed, & the dr went to see her too. After lunch Muz went over to see her, & we slept for a bit. When Muz came back, she had a sleep too. The dr: came in the evening, & now he won’t be coming again, as he joins the army tomorrow, & goes to Blackpool. Muz slept on the box, & nurse sat up, & H. went to bed. I hardly slept at all.
Friday 25 October
The new dr: didn’t come in the morning. I got up & dressed for the first time, & sat in the room. I have been exercising my legs in bed, so wasn’t as wobbly as I might have been! But felt rather queer. Ione in bed all day too. I lay down after tea, & at about five Sir Thomas came, he says I can’t go out till after Tuesday, as it may go to my lungs. Tom is to stay very quiet. One lung is all hard, & she must be kept warm. Her temp: normal, but she can’t get up for about another week. Sir T. looked at my throat, & said I needn’t have an operation, unless it gives me a lot of trouble, & says to keep clear of medicines!! H. went to bed late, so as to give nurse an extra sleep. Muz slept on the box, & we all had a good night.
“The Doctors Know Nothing about It”
Saturday 26 October
I got up & dressed, Tom seems better, & temperature still normal. I sat in the room. Heppie was out doing messages all day. Ione was up, & sitting in her sitting room. I read for a bit in the evening. Heppie stayed up till late, before she called nurse. Muz slept on the box. We got settled off at about ten, & we had a very good night.
Sunday 27 October
I stayed in bed till lunch time. Tom’s Temp: still normal. I read nearly all day. H. went messages [sic] in the morning, & church in the afternoon, & then went to see Ione, who is still in the house. We settled off the bed at about 10-30, & H. sat up for a bit, before calling nurse. Muz slept on the box. We didn’t have much of a night.
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