Monday, February 18, 2008

Chapter Twenty-Six

It’s been a couple of days since Sissy made her first trek around the neighborhood. Mostly the neighborhood is healing; there have been two more deaths reported. The elderly lady who suffered a stroke suffered a second one and passed quietly in her sleep. The girl who had the stillborn baby died after a series of convulsions that were brought on either by the lingering effects of the virus or from a secondary infection she got during the birthing process.

Sissy herself is still suffering from nervous tension brought on by the trauma of nearly losing her family. She tries really hard to not give in to the panic and anxiety she sometimes feels. Some days are better than others. She is still suffering from insomnia. She knows that she is going to make herself ill if she does not deal with what is going on in her head. Every time she thinks about it too hard she finds herself on the verge of tears. Scott and the kids are puzzled by her inability to let it go. They have gotten better therefore everything IS better in their own minds. She thinks, "they have put it behind them so easily and are moving on. Why can’t I do that?" It will take time for her to begin to trust that her family really is all safe and sound. And she becomes positively ill when she thinks about Scott resuming his business activities. Her one outlet for getting true understanding is the different flu forums. They have set up threads to specifically discuss issues like fear and grief. According to other posters, the feelings do subside, but you can’t make it happen any faster than your mind is willing to go.

Relatives finally collect the body of the older lady after swiftly clearing out her house. The red headed girl is laid to rest beside her baby in the family’s backyard since no one in the county could tell them how long it would be before they could get by to pick up her body.

The news says authorities are practically begging people to not do that – unauthorized burials – but families feel that they are left with no other choice when it can take up to a week for the county coroner’s office to collect the bodies. The alternative is watching the bodies of their loved ones decay and that is too deeply disturbing for most people to contemplate.

It isn’t just Tampa that is experiencing a sharp increase in illnesses. Apparently many locations in the US are experiencing the hypothetical "2nd Wave" of the pandemic. The 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic also occurred in waves and it had been debated whether a 21st century pandemic flu would act in the same manner. In some places that continue to enforce strong mitigation measures, there are no readily apparent waves although there have been spikes in cases.

The flat-line wave effect is a direct result of early mitigation measures. Areas where mitigation procedures are allowed to become lax or where they are lifted too quickly see a sharp increase in cases. There are many variables affecting the other areas that are experiencing a true wave; too many to be easily definable during a 2 minute news broadcast. Scientists around the world will be analyzing the data long after the pandemic ends.

Whether the virus that is causing a sharp spike in cases over the last couple of weeks in Tampa is panflu or not is still being studied. There is a strong suspicion that it is a strain that is just different enough to not register using the current testing methods. This is not good news for the vaccine companies. The only compensation is that its lethality is much lower than the original panflu strain, which is in fact still the main strain dominating the infection data from around the world.

Barry’s granddaughter is awake but she isn’t out of the woods yet. The poor little thing is emaciated and extremely weak. She continues to sleep most of the time. As a matter of fact, everyone who has been sick is still experiencing some degree of weakness and fatigue. To address this in her own family, and she is sharing it with Barry’s family, Sissy makes up batches of garlic broth and broth made from greens.

Both broths are extremely healthy and help to build up the immune system, but are light enough for an invalid to eat. Another good one she plans on fixing is rose hip soup – full of Vitamin C – if her wild rose bushes start making hips any time soon.

Sissy knocks on Barry’s door.

"Serena? Ann? Its Sissy."

Serena comes to the porch, "Hey lady! Come around back. What’s in the bag?"

"A thermos of garlic broth and some fresh garlic cloves."

"Sissy, you can’t keep doing this. Don’t get me wrong. We’re grateful. But your own family has been sick too. Scott was telling Barry yesterday that you all have already gone through over half of your garlic bulbs. There is no way we’ll be able to repay you."

"Did I ask you too? Look, one, there is no way I can just stand aside and not try to do something for your granddaughter. Two, you don’t realize how much of a relief it has been for me to have Barry working with Scott. Three, I know if our positions were reversed you’d be trying to help us out. So don’t worry about ‘repaying’ anything. It isn’t even a concept for this. OK?"

"OK," responds Serena with a misty sheen to her eyes.

"Anyway, how are Ann and the girls?"

"Barry Jr. finally convinced Ann to go take a nap. That was three hours ago. I know if it was my baby laying there like that I’d be as frantic as she is. But I’m scared to death Ann is running herself so hard she’s going to collapse and relapse. You almost can’t tell the two younger ones were sick except they are black to taking long naps during the middle of the day. But the oldest … at least she is now able to keep down a little bit of food."

"How’d she like that pear sauce?"

"It was the first thing Ann could get her to eat besides broth. We think she’s definitely on the road to recovery. But even though she’s the same little girl personality wise? I’ve notice she … oh I don’t know, maybe its too soon and I’m expecting too much."


"I don’t know. It just seems she’s not quite as advanced as she was. She is just looking at the pictures in the little Dr. Seuss books she used to love to read. And its just some other little things. Maybe I’m just imaging things."

I hate to say this, but maybe not. But why don’t you just not worry about it too much until she recovers more. I had to practically re-potty train Johnnie. It might just be she needs some time."

"I hope that’s all it is for Barry Jr’s sake. Barry said the boy just can’t let go of the fact that he is the one who brought this into the neighborhood. That girl and her baby and those kids dying have hit him very hard. And of course, Bob Grinder had to put in his two cents. Barry Jr. has really taken what that bastard had to say to heart."

"It could have happened in any number of ways. We still have a lot of people working outside the neighborhood and there’s more non-resident foot traffic on the street than I’m totally comfortable with."

"That’s what Barry has tried to tell him. But he already feels so guilty. I’m just praying that his baby girl heals all the way from this, even if it takes a while."

"I’ll see if Scott will reinforce what Barry is saying if he can. Maybe hearing it from someone besides his dad will let him let it sink in. Look, I told the kids I’d only be a minute so I need to get."

"Thanks for bringing this by. I’ll have Barry give the thermos to Scott tomorrow."

"OK. And don’t forget about the Stone Soup Potluck. I think the older folks are really enjoying being able to put this on. It’s a way for them to pay back a bunch of favors."

"I’ve heard a lot of people are anxious for that potluck. There are a lot of people going hungry."

No comments: