The person was fine in the morning, and dead by nightfall. Sounds like now with Covid – 19. But is also from Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918. Until Covid – 19, the Spanish flu pandemic on 1918-1919 was the only recent pandemic experience. This devastating influenza pandemic lasted only about a year, but ultimately claimed the lives of upwards of 50 million people. In the United States, about 22 million people – more than one in four Americans – were stricken.  The final U.S. death toll was estimated at 675,000. Now it is 2020 with the Covid – 19 pandemic. At the time I am writing this, in only three months, there are 854,490 people have Covid -19 and 47,178 people have died in the United States.

At the turn of the last century, much like today, the “flu” was seasonal annoyance that could be temporary but seldom life threatening except for the very young, the very old or people with comprised immune systems. But the strain that came in the pandemic in the spring of 1918, was much more dangerous. Transmitted by respiratory droplets, the disease was far more deadly and spread swiftly, much like Corona virus now. During that time, nursing became crucial, to ensuring the health and well being of all in St. Louis.

In St. Louis, Deaconess nurses provided the care to the ill. They worked in their hospital to nurse to health and bring comfort to the dying.  But they also worked to ensure the public health of those most vulnerable. Just as today, the nurses stressed basic hygiene and hand washing, social distancing and wearing a gauze mask when out in public. They worked tirelessly to teach and advocate for good public health guidelines which made a difference in ending the pandemic.

Today, during the Covid – 19 crisis, the Deaconess nurses are doing the same – working tirelessly to teach and care for those who are most vulnerable. During the 2020 pandemic, Deaconess nurses are providing wellness phone calls to seniors who have been referred by Northside Youth and Senior services, St Louis Housing Authority and United Way 211 referrals. During their calls, the nurses are providing physical and behavioral health assessments and stressing how to stay healthy by staying home, handwashing and wearing masks in public. Nurses working at affordable housing and senior independent facilities are providing much needed disease prevention monitoring and health education. And nurses are working with the Muslim physicians at the Salam clinic to ensure that those who are under insured or uninsured get the health care they need.
Making a difference is what the Deaconess nurses do – whether it is 1918 or 2020. Our nurses are incredible and passion filled! They do the work with the heart and spirit that has lived since the beginning with Deaconess nursing. We thank them and all of you who help us by providing face masks, monetary support and most of all prayers. We are all in this together!

Donna Pupillo