The global pandemic national health crises through their eyes
With the Coronavirus crisis becoming increasingly deadly, and with a president in the White House whose indifference and human cruelty knows no bounds, my observations and opinions, admittedly through the prism of motherhood, tend to lean toward our innocent children and what they must be witnessing and feeling during these difficult times. The personal sacrifices and struggles we’re experiencing as we navigate our way through this global health crisis are understandably difficult. But considering what it must it be like for children is even more disconcerting. Moreover, the constant display of ineptitude and lack of leadership from the Trump administration does absolutely nothing to ensure that this nation is in good hands.
Having lived through several global health crises as a child of the ’50s and ’60s, I can well imagine what verbal and nonverbal cues today’s children are responding to as they look to their parents and other adults in their lives for guidance on how to react to such monumentally stressful events. I was fortunate to have two loving and devoted parents whose strength and reassurance was constant. Educators who kept us informed and apprised during school hours. And strong and reassuring presidential leadership from the Oval Office when occupied by Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.
The Polio Epidemic — 1952
My personal memories of the health crises are vivid and everlasting. When the Polio epidemic hit its peak in 1952, I was an 8 year-old 3rd grader at St. Jude Elementary School in Montgomery, Alabama. Terrified beyond measure and dreading the mandatory Polio vaccines we were being required to receive at school. I invented every imaginable excuse to stay home but my mother was accustomed to my vivid imagination and wisely sent me off to school. Around that time, I became aware of the sudden absence of one of my friends and classmates, which was explained to us by our teacher as gently as possible. My friend had been diagnosed with Infantile Paralysis (Polio), hospitalized and placed in an Iron Lung. As was customary in Catholic schools, for several days, we were led in prayer at a special Mass and instructed to pray for a cure for the dreaded disease.
Asian Flu — 1957
In 1957, when I was 13 years-old, a new Influenza virus, then called the Asian Flu Pandemic, caused a global panic. I actually came down with the Flu that summer, and during several house calls from our family doctor and worried looks from my parents and siblings, the whispers about “Asian Flu” were disturbing. I was never told that what I had was actually Asian Flu, but I remember being deathly ill, and the frantic television and radio news broadcasts didn’t help. With tremendous death tolls in the United States, and world-wide deaths ranging between one to four million, I was convinced that I was not long for this world. But after several weeks of injections and antibiotics and home care, I recovered fully.
Thalidomide Scare — 1960s
In the late 1950s, a new drug called Thalidomide was created by a German pharmaceutical company as a tranquilizer intended to prevent pregnant women from suffering from morning sickness. The drug had initially been promoted for that purpose as well as to relieve anxiety and trouble sleeping in expectant mothers. But later, in the early 1960s, severe birth defects were noted and connected to the drug and it was banned and removed from the market. The Thalidomide scare was on the minds of childbearing women all over the world. Fortunately, due to the determined research and due diligence of Francis Oldham Kelsey, a Canadian pharmacologist and reviewer for the United States FDA, the startling discovery about the drug’s links to birth defects was made. Her insistence that her findings showed that the drug must be fully tested before approval was later justified. She was internationally revered as a heroine of science and awarded the nation’s highest federal civilian service award in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy.
Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) The Global Pandemic
In the aftermath of the failed leadership on the federal level, several mayors and governors around the country have taken on the role previously fulfilled by a president. Most unfortunately, in these days of dread and uncertainty this nation is at the mercy of Donald Trump, a psychologically damaged individual who conned his way into the White House. A man who is incapable of human empathy and without question, is a public health threat, as evidenced by the misinformation he continues to dole out on a daily basis.
Children are watching and listening. They will take their verbal and nonverbal cues from the adults in their lives who must provide guidance during these stressful times. We must protect them from the endless stream of lies and contradictions spewing from the vile orifices of Donald Trump and his shamelessly prostrate sycophants.