Sometime during that first week of medical school, I learned that the world belongs to horses. Except when DH has a bloody nose: he has leukemia. Or I have a headache: glioblastoma multiforme … or cysticercosis. Now, The Kid is coughing: yup … swine flu.
I remember skipping over the Reagan era — I was in college, then graduate school, then medical school. The internet was not ubiquitous; DH used the old DARPANET as part of his graduate work, and completely underestimated the possibilities. Me — I had my first encounters with computer while using LOTS. It was an experience mercifully aborted as I realized I hated being with a bunch of geeks at 2 in the morning. Then I had a Mac, which I used for churning out a truly awful “bodice ripper.” The Mac didn’t last long — it probably died of embarrassment after that romance novel. The point is — the Reagan era was not a happy time for liberals — or for the country, for that matter — but I didn’t know that because I didn’t live in a world of instant news.
So now the WHO has advanced the swine flu problem to phase 4 — and I can’t help knowing that because I spend way too much time on the computer. The doctor in me thinks it’s a real problem almost certain to become a HUGE problem, but I also have faith in the medical community. And yet I am absurdly unnerved by all the up-to-the-minute news, the doomsday headlines, the painstaking accounting of cases. I remember when AIDS began, and newscasters would give that same accounting of the number of deaths. When did they stop counting? At 50? At 100? When people no longer could — or wanted to — absorb the numbers?
The Kid is coughing, and I try to think my way out of my fears. I take comfort in that I apparently survived the 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic — a pandemic I didn’t know about until yesterday.