2 minute read
The current pandemic is the greatest healthcare crisis most of us have experienced during our lifetimes, with over half a million deaths from the novel virus in the US alone (CDC, 2021).
Yet for those who journalist Tom Brokaw described as “The Greatest Generation” (Brokaw, 1998), COVID-19 is simply another roadblock. Brokaw coined the term to describe those Americans who grew up in the shadow of the Great Depression and became young adults while serving in the military during World War II. Those who remained home- primarily women and children- took factory jobs that their husbands left behind, and made the most of limited resources for food, gasoline, fuel, shoes and clothing using their ration cards (NPS.gov, n.d.). Given the circumstances they had grown up in, doing without was nothing new.
Sadly, most members of the Greatest Generation have passed on, but the few who remain personify what it means to have grit. A good friend who recently celebrated her 90th birthday walked six miles through a foot of snow to get the Pfizer vaccine (Brodeur, 2021). Having spent the greater part of 2020 self-isolated in her apartment, Fran Goldman was ready to move on. Family gatherings on Zoom were a poor substitute for in-person celebration, and she was tired of using a grocery delivery service.
Getting an appointment for the vaccine was a challenge; limited supplies had been diverted to southern parts of the city where case counts were highest. After weeks of searching online and making phone calls, Goldman finally secured an appointment at the nearby Seattle Children’s Hospital.
The day before her appointment, a winter storm rolled in and with it, snow. Realizing that her Toyota Prius couldn’t navigate the snow-covered roads, she decided to walk. She admits that the walk was challenging having undergone hip replacement surgery the year before, but worth the effort. Having successfully made the appointment for her second vaccine, Goldman knows that by mid-March, she will be able to do her own grocery shopping and finally meet her newest great grandchild.
When we compare our healthcare resources with prior generations, the picture changes. There was no vaccine for the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed 50 million people worldwide: 675,000 in the US (CDC, n.d.). Polio outbreaks between 1916 and 1955 killed thousands of children and left many more permanently disabled before the advent of the vaccines (Healthline, n.d.). Our glass is half full. It is time to move forward.
Brodeur, N. (2021). Seattle woman, 90, walks 6 miles through snow to get her COVID-19 vaccine. Seattle Times. http://www.seattletimes.com
Brokaw, T. (1998). The Greatest Generation. Random House, LLC.
CDC (n.d.). Pandemic Influenza, Past Pandemics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-resources
Healthline (n.d.). The Worst Outbreaks in U.S. History. http://www.healthline.com/worst-disease-outbreaks-history
NPS (n.d.). Sacrificing for the common good: rationing in WWII. National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/articles/rationing-in-wwii