It feels a little like the Twilight Zone right now, but unfortunately, this isn’t a fictional nightmare. As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) takes a huge health, economic, and psychological toll, many media outlets and bloggers are making insightful comparisons to the influenza epidemic of 1918. Prior to finding countless current articles comparing the worst flu epidemic in history with the coronavirus, I decided to mine historic photos to see what they revealed. I discovered that efforts to stop the 1918 epidemic were quite remarkable, all things considered. While 100+ years of insights, knowledge, progress, and sophistication in every facet of life in the developed world have transformed life so significantly, some things never change. Despite incredible advancements in science and medicine, many of the precautions are the same today as they were back then. The one semi-political comment I’ll make is that President Woodrow Wilson was a highly skilled leader – no comment about you know who, because once I start, I won’t stop and raising my blood pressure isn’t helpful. Medical quackery and cures were all the rage 100 years ago, which in a sense can be compared to scams today. Jim Baker you’re a flimflam man and jerk! And sadly, in times of crisis, the number of scam artists seems to proliferate. In any case, rather than attempting to compete with all the other blogs, I’m presenting a few interesting facts and photos that are a testament to the resourcefulness of our ancestors. A Few Facts and Stats The 1918 influenza epidemic didn’t originate in Spain. It was dubbed the Spanish flu because Spain was neutral during WWI and as such, didn’t have to censor its news for morale. Thus, Spanish news outlets had no issues publicizing the flu outbreak in all its gory details. One theory suggests…
Remember the beloved film, A Christmas Story? Nine-year old Ralphie only wants one gift for Christmas – a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass and sundial. The very last present his parents give him is the beloved Red Ryder. Ralphie takes the gun outside, firing at a target perched on a metal sign in the backyard. Unfortunately, the BB ricochets back at him, knocking his glasses off. Ralphie actually thinks he shot his eye out since he cannot see without his glasses. He steps on the glasses while searching for them and they break. He tearfully conceals this fact from his mom, telling her an icicle fell on his face. Every year, thousands of people including children younger than Ralphie suffer injuries from BB and air guns. These aren’t toys, although I’m certain thousands of people will disagree with me on that. I did not have a BB gun as a kid, but I played with a cool, tooled toy cap gun that used a minuscule amount of gunpowder in the caps. I remember loving the way it smelled.
When I first signed up for health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – aka Obamacare, like many other people, I experienced glitches including outages. Based on my income, I supposedly qualified for Medicaid, which turned out to not be true. I ended up starting a new application in the Marketplace and outsmarted the system by declaring income just above the Medicaid-qualifying amount. In fact, a very competent person I spoke to at my local Medicaid office provided this tip. Apparently, there were several phantom accounts already under my name, so I was forced to create a new account with my maiden and married name. No big deal … my premium was affordable and a huge relief compared to what I experienced the prior year – getting screwed big time by Humana. That is a whole other saga, but in summary, they investigated me as if it I was a witch in Salem, all prompted by an MRI of my neck. I had to fill out pages and pages of medical history which resulted in a declaration of a preexisting condition and out-of-pocket costs of $3,000 for the MRI!
Although certain candies bring back really sweet memories of childhood, I’ve been thinking lately about some of the bath and beauty products from my youth. These items are associated with vivid memories of a simpler time, devoid of all the gadgets and high tech products kids have today. Some of them, like unopened feminine products from yesteryear, are actually collected now for their nostalgic factor – I have personally sold a few on Ebay. If you have any products you used in your youth that bring back memories, whether fond or angst-ridden, please share. Procter & Gamble introduced Prell shampoo in 1947. Growing up, the clear green concentrate packaged in a tube was my family’s shampoo of choice. The color really looked radioactive, but the plastic tube was ingenious – lightweight and no risk of breaking a glass bottle. Although Prell was also available in a plastic bottle, the tube is what I associate with its iconic image. According to the website, in 1955 Prell was marketed for “women who wanted their hair to have that radiantly alive look”. Honestly, I cannot remember if the shampoo was good for our hair, but thinking about it brings back a host of memories. Procter & Gamble sold Prell to Prestige Brands International in November 1999. Prestige sold Prell, along with its other two shampoo brands (Denorex and Zincon) to Ultimark Products in October 2009 in order to focus on other product areas. Much to my surprise, the tubes are available for purchase on Amazon.
Although I don’t always agree with her, I admire Hillary Clinton greatly – and we have a few things in common. We both grew up in the Chicago suburbs, are Democrats, and have just one beloved daughter, but now we have one more thing in common. Ironic that when I wrote a press release for a journal article on concussion less than a month ago and mentioned Hillary, that I would be joining her as a concussed patient. I have been researching and writing about this topic since 2004, and I suddenly find myself experiencing this type of traumatic brain injury firsthand. The most underreported, under diagnosed and underestimated head injury is concussion, accounting for 90 percent of traumatic brain injuries, with the number of cases ranging in the millions every year. The brain is a soft organ that is surrounded by spinal fluid and protected by the hard skull. Normally, this fluid acts like a cushion that keeps your brain from banging into your skull. But if you hit your head or body hard, the brain can crash into your skull and sustain an injury.
As I watch some of the events in the 2014 Winter Olympics, I am amazed at the moves that these athletes attempt and master. Olympic events that are new additions, or relatively new, have spawned unbelievable feats of grace and athleticism, while other sports have progressed so much that one has to wonder if this generation of athletes is genetically modified. I find myself gasping at the jumps and lifts in pairs figure skating, and incredible flips and moves in events such as slopestyle skiing and snowboarding, aerial skiing, and snowboarding half-pipe. And let’s not forget the great speed in skeleton and luge and the brutal impact freestyle moguls must have on knees and other body parts. If you have been watching, you know that quite a few athletes have already been injured, while others have taken nasty spills, but seemingly are alright. Somehow I think that more than their egos are bruised.
While Jeff and I have been very happily cohabitating with our kitty Pepper for more than a decade, we chose to opt out of the commercialization of Valentine’s Day about 11 years ago. While neither of us was ever that keen on this holiday, what sent me over the proverbial cliff was when Jeff bought me wilted roses at Dominick’s as a show of his undying affection. I think not, honey, dear, sweetie – jerk! What ensued was that I fled the house and treated myself to a really fattening meal at my favorite neighborhood burger joint, Fratellos. A hamburger and some of the best French fries east of the Mississippi helped put things in perspective and calm me down. So after the fallout – and the extra padding on my love handles, we made a pact to never celebrate Valentine’s Day in a traditional way ever again. Now I can tell you that more than 10 years later and flower-free, our relationship has weathered quite a bit and our deep bond has grown stronger.
When I told Jeff three weeks ago that I wanted to go see Bret Michaels at Frontier Days, an annual local festival in Arlington Heights, he was a bit dumbfounded. So was I, quite frankly, because my musical taste, while eclectic, is more closely aligned with the likes of Regina Spektor, The Lumineers, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground … you get the idea. In any case, I think I was curious because Bret Michaels is above all a gutsy survivor. Regardless of the cheesy Rock of Love with Bret Michaels reality show or how one feels about his music, it is undeniable that this guy is scrappy. So what if I was the lone person (with hubby in tow) out of 22,000 folks who wasn’t there that night to rock out, get drunk, and boogie down. I wanted to see firsthand this cool country cat who must have been blessed with nine lives. If you don’t know Michaels’ story, I urge you to read on. In addition to coping with juvenile diabetes, a series of life-threatening medical events turned Michaels’ life upside down starting in April 2010. On April 12, 2010, Michaels was admitted to the hospital with intense stomach pains that led to an emergency appendectomy. About 10 days later, Michaels was rushed to the hospital with an excruciating headache. Doctors discovered that he had suffered a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage – or cerebral aneurysm. Only 30 percent of patients survive such incidents and many are left with permanent deficits. Miraculously, just 2 weeks later, his neurosurgeon Joseph Zabramski of Barrow Neurosurgical Associates, announced that Michaels was indeed one of the lucky few to survive and he would make a full recovery. However, he wasn’t out of the woods yet.
In the course of my PR career in the health and medical field, among the many things I did was research diseases, conditions, and injuries of celebrities and/or their close relatives. This research fell into two primary clinical areas based on the associations I worked for at the time – vision and neurosurgical, respectively. When I worked at Prevent Blindness America, I actually had the privilege of interviewing quite a few celebrities. These were typically done via the celebrity’s agent and submitted as written interview questions that I scripted. The completed interviews were published in the organization’s magazine. The power of celebrity goes a long way to increasing disease/injury prevention and awareness. Case in point – Angelina Jolie’s recent admission that she underwent a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction to avoid the same tragic fate that befell her mother and maternal aunt. Jolie revealed this in a brave New York Times Op/Ed article titled My Medical Choice, published on May 14, 2013. She carries the BRCA1 gene and her doctors advised her that this fact, along with her family history of breast cancer gave her an 87 percent risk of developing the disease. Jolie has always been considered one of the most beautiful and sexy actresses in America, but it is her charitable, philanthropic work and intelligent frankness that set her apart.
The last month has been jam-packed with a lot of exciting play for sports fans. The Miami Heat clinched its second straight NBA title by beating the San Antonio Spurs on June 20 in Game 7, 95-88. The Chicago Blackhawks snagged its second Stanley Cup in three years in Game 6 of the NHL finals in Boston on June 24 in a rousing finish with back-to-back goals. There were injuries, naturally – such as a collision in Game 6 of the NBA Finals that caused Dwyane Wade’s left knee to swell very badly when he was already suffering with an injured right knee. Chicago Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews got hit in the head and sat out part of Game 5, while Andrew Shaw took a puck to the face in the first period of Game 6, but returned in the second period after receiving stitches. For those that enjoy their spectator sports with a bit more starch and less blood, how about Wimbledon, which officially started on June 24 with fifth-ranked Rafael Nadal getting knocked out for the very first time in the first round of a Grand Slam! On June 20, Abby Wambach broke Mia Hamm’s record for international career goals by a soccer player, scoring four times in the first half against South Korea to increase her total to 160. While I was watching her the next day on Good Morning America with a recap of one of the goals she scored by heading the ball, I thought about the number of sports- and recreation-related injuries and concussions suffered every year by professional and amateur athletes alike.