Thursday, March 19, 2020

Documenting History

How would you like to read your grandparents' thoughts while they went through the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic or your parents during World War II or anyone during the Civil War? Wouldn't that be amazing? I'm not aware of anything my ancestors wrote down during these times. Most people think their thoughts are not important enough to write down and that their lives were mundane and boring. I know my mother said that, despite being a teenager during World War II. These events were big parts of history. The current COVID-19/Coronavirus/SARS-CoV2 pandemic is history in the making. You are living through a major event in history. Document it!

Find a notebook or some paper and start writing. If you're reading this, you're on a computer or phone. You have a way to enter your thoughts on this device. Grab a pen or start a new document and start writing or typing. Tell about the news you heard leading up to this point. Tell about virus news that occurred around where you live. Take pictures of the deserted streets and empty store shelves. Most of all, tell what you're feeling. Talk about things you wish your grandparents talked about in the journals they didn't leave for you to find.

So you don't have children and feel there's no need to leave behind a remnant of your life? What would you think if a person in the town your grandparents lived would have left behind what happened in that town during an important point in history? While I'd prefer to read what my grandparents wrote, if they didn't write anything, I'd love to read what others went through in their town.

Here are the first few entries I made in the journal on my computer.

Thoughts of Matthew K. Miller on the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic.
12 March, 2020

I remember when the terrorist attacks happened on September 11, 2001. It was surreal, like I was watching a movie, yet I knew it was real. It was a disaster of catastrophic proportions. There was nothing I could do about it and it was definitely going to affect my life in ways I couldn't predict.

The COVID-19 outbreak is much the same thing. There's not a sudden, massive, loss of life but the loss could still happen, just more in slow motion, gaining speed with time. I have a reasonable confidence that my wife and I would survive an infection should we catch it. Same for most of our family. However, we have a serious fear of what could happen to her son who had a kidney transplant, my wife's parents, my daughter-in-law's parents and grandmother, not to mention the hundreds of thousands or millions of other elderly people and those with medical conditions. This is what frightens us. From what we've heard, our grandchildren are reasonably safe. It appears that very very few young people have any serious illness as a result of this infection. That's a blessing.

The talk has mostly been about how to protect my stepson from being infected and whether my wife should go down to visit her parents 45 minutes from here. As far as we know, neither my wife nor I, nor anyone else in our family has been infected and no one is showing any symptoms at this point. The problem is that you can have the infection and not show any symptoms for several days but still are able to pass the illness along to others. If we are sick and don't know it, she could pass it along to her parents without knowing. They are in their 80s and, while I wouldn't call them frail, it is obvious they don't have the strength they had 10 years ago.

On the one hand, I am hopeful the spread will slow and eventually peter out. On the other hand, I am afraid of the long term, with people getting sick with this every year. My prediction is that the spread will slow and eventually die out, likely because most people will have gotten it and not know it. Then it will eventually die out like MERS and SARS did a few years back. We are reasonably prepared to be stuck at home for an extended period of time. I'll just continue to pray for the sick and elderly.

I had to go pick up some groceries yesterday. We have a good supply of most things but needed a few things so I went to the grocery store. Several things jumped out at me. It was the first time I've ever had an item rationed to me. I wanted to pick up 10 pounds of ground beef and they limited me to 5 pounds max. Many items were sold out, such as bottled water, milk, bread, pasta, hand soap and hand sanitizer. It seemed many people were trying very hard to walk as if they are not panicking. They weren't running but they also were not walking calmly. It's like their bodies wanted to run but they were able to control the speed their legs took them but couldn't completely control the way they moved. It was like a stiff-legged, slightly faster than normal walk. Finally, at the checkout lane, I saw the front page of a tabloid "newspaper". It showed someone in a hazmat suit with the headline "Coronavirus destroys the world." This kind of mass-hyping and over-sensationalism really ticks me off. Most people will come through an infection fine. It's just a small percentage that will have problems but that small percentage is too high for our hospital system to handle. Still people are panicking and these headlines can only make it worse. Even if, like me, people know these tabloids are created for sensationalism, seeing these words are likely to stay with someone and leak into their subconscious, making it more likely they will panic.

I have been working from home since Tuesday, March 17. I am lucky that my job is possible to do through a VPN connection. I'm paid salary and my employer is very generous in this situation. If an employee can't work remotely and are not critical for day-to-day business, they are to stay home and be paid their normal pay without using PTO. Anyone who is diagnosed is not to work, even remotely, and they will be paid during the entire time of their illness without using PTO. The numbers of cases continues to go up and there has been at least one person diagnosed in Sarpy County and they visited a grocery store that I go to. I can't say that they went on the same day I did though. I am hoping we won't catch it and am cautiously optimistic that we will recover should we get it. I am, however, very nervous about going to any store, fearing we might catch it and nervous about getting together with my stepson, fearing we might have it and not know. We definitely don't want him to catch this, given his kidney transplant makes him high risk.

And since we're talking about family and the pandemic, I'll introduce you to two of my family members.

First is the son of my first cousin, Patrick Fullenkamp, putting a challenge out to the public to provide hospitals with more of the masks they need.

Finally is my brother, Dr. Brian Miller MD, President of the Sangamon County, Illinois Board of Health, talking about orders a week ago, limiting the gathering of more than 250 people in one location. Scroll down and view the second video on the page. Brian starts talking at about the 1:45pm mark. How things have changed in the short time since then!

Everyone take care. Be safe!


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