1st October 1918 Tuesday (1)

Busy Hospital Work, Abscess, TB, Influenza and Gifts

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1st October 1918 Part 1

At seven o’clock in the morning of Tuesday October 1st Anderson and his men with the Russians set off. It was very cold and raining hard.

I had a busy morning getting the hospital in order and attending to sick Russian civilians This was an awful job, as I had no interpreter. But I seemed to please them all right, and received many gifts of milk, eggs etc. I wouldn’t take any money but asked the people to bring eggs etc. for the patients. In this way I was able to feed the patients very well. I was called to see a little boy, who was lying seriously ill in a big house opposite Headquarters. He was very ill, and had a nasty T.B abscess of the right leg. With Turner’s assistance I gave him a whiff of chloroform, and opened up the abscess. To finish the story I may say that he soon got better. The good people didn’t know how much to thank me and showered all sorts of gifts on me – cakes, eggs, fowl etc. They were awfully decent. The little boy was a pretty little kiddie with lovely golden, curly hair, and I used to enjoy going in to dress his leg every day, and have a chat – at least as far as I was able to chat. When I eventually left Seletskoe these good people were greatly distressed, and gave me enough eatables to keep me going for a week! It was the same with all the Russians I went to see. They were a decent, hospitable lot, I found. I soon came to know almost everybody in the place, and got on awfully well with the kiddies. Many a time a cart would drive up to the hospital to take me to some house or other to see somebody who was sick. I remember one woman who arrived one morning in a terrible state of anxiety, and urged me to go off at once to see her husband who was very ill. When we got to the house, which consisted of two rooms, I found the husband lying on a filthy bed in the far room. Of course all the windows were shut tight, and the heat and smell in the place nearly choked me. I found the man to be in the last stages of consumption, and very nearly dead. There were seven children, and three of them were obviously consumptive. All were thin, haggard and half-starved. Poor little wretches! They were pretty little kids too. During the early part of October a terrible epidemic of influenza of a very severe type attacked the village. For one week the average number of deaths per day was six. It was awful, and I was kept pretty busy. Once the disease got a good grip on these poor half-starved creatures, it was hopeless to try and cure them.

Unfortunately owing to the amount of work to be done in the hospital I was often unable to attend to all sick calls, and in a few cases the people were dead before I got to the house. But I discovered a ‘felcher’ – a doctor’s assistant or dispenser – in the village, and put him on to doing most of the visits, only calling on me to see the serious ones. In this way everybody got more attention, and my work was lightened. Luckily I got a good supply of drugs up from Archangel on the first of the month, and with the help of a qualified dispenser whom I discovered in the ranks of the Royal Scots, was able to make up some effective mixtures, and put a stop to the epidemic, but not before about a hundred out of the two thousand odd inhabitants had succumbed to the foul disease.”

The so called Spanish Flu accounted for the deaths of anything up to 50 million people. It was called Spanish Flu not because it came from Spain, but because the first reports of the disease in this time of heavy censorship in the press came from English editions of Spanish newspapers not subject to the censorships of the British press. It may have originated in China.

The war itself is thought to have resulted in the deaths of over 16 million people, far fewer than the most virulent pandemic disease to ever hit mankind. All this on top of the war would re-shape human history for the world.

This article gives some background to the Influenza Pandemic of 1918/19. https://virus.stanford.edu/uda/ 

1st October 1918 Part 2 is here

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

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