Jack D. Bell
1957 Flu Pandemic
Storyteller: Jack D. Bell
In early 1958, I was a rather typical “boomer” generation 11-year-old boy, attending 5th grade classes at my local elementary school in Seattle, Washington. Other than suffering from moderate asthma/hay fever problems, I was a healthy youth, playing baseball, etc.
Alas, I contracted the dreaded “Asian Flu” that had been in the news for some time. Let me tell you, I have never been so miserable, before or since. In the space of a few hours, a fever showed up, and I began vomiting every half-hour or so, for at least one full day. My parents sent me to bed, where I stayed for about three days. My temperature hit the 104-degree mark, and hovered there for two days; talk about miserable! I can remember trying to drink fluids, but nothing would stay down. My mom kept cold compresses on my forehead, but it didn’t help much. It seemed that every muscle and joint in my body was aching, and I spent many hours massaging my arms and legs. And, I simply was too uncomfortable to sleep! At one point, I kept asking my poor momma if I was going to die and I told her if this kept up much longer that I didn’t care if I died! I can remember my parents discussing whether they should send me to the hospital, but our family doctor (who actually came to our house; remember when doctors did that?!) told us that my fever would break any time, and I would feel much better. He was right, on the third day I stopped vomiting and got a few hours of sleep. When I woke up, my wonderful mom fed me some chicken soup—my favorite, and I kept it down. I missed about a week of school, which I didn’t mind.
Today, I am a very healthy, lucky man as far as other medical problems go. I haven’t experienced nausea-related episodes for the past 30 years or so — but believe me—that Asian flu episode has stayed in my mind for over 50 years.
I have received the annual flu shot for over 30 years now and it works so well! Don’t believe the people who tell you that these inoculations have made them sick! Never has happened to me. If you are older, like me, use your brain, and get an annual flu shot. It just might save your life!