As long as I have my memory, October 9, 2009, will be a day I’ll never forget.

I’d fought (with OTC meds) what I thought was just the common cold for several days prior, but wasn’t getting any better. So I decided to go to the doctor to see what was going on. My regular doctor was booked solid along with all the other doctors at the medical facility, but fortunately, I was able to snag an appointment with my doctor’s PA-C.

My dad had to drive me, as my car wouldn’t start that morning. I didn’t like it, because it concerned me he’d catch what I had, but I had no choice. Plus, he was pretty insistent on helping. I had to get to the doctor.

After the tests came back, I was told the big news: “Your test was flu-positive.”

“Oh, ok – you mean the seasonal flu?” I asked in response. Like many people, I’d had the flu before, so I knew the experience. “No,” she said. “H1N1.”

I blinked several times in shock. How could this have happened? I had watched the news reports and read the stories about the people who had become infected and died from the swine flu, so I had taken precautions like faithfully washing my hands and using hand sanitizers. But short of either holing yourself up in your home for months or walking around outside in a literal bubble, no method was fool-proof.

Suddenly I was part of the statistics that year on the swine flu. Was I going to be able to beat this thing? Fortunately, the PA eased my fears on the media hype surrounding H1N1, noting I caught it early.

But it was a battle and a half to beat it. Like Professor Jacobson, I was prescribed Tamiflu and inhalers, lots of chicken soup and bed rest, of course. Both my mom and dad insisted I stay with them, even though I was terrified I’d give it to them. I quarantined myself in the bedroom, and mom made sure to stock up on Lysol, face masks and gloves, and surface wipes and hand sanitizer.

I put on a brave face for my family, but I was scared as hell.

Going through the swine flu was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had had the regular flu a few times in my life, had pneumonia, bronchitis, the common cold. But nothing at all like the swine flu. Sure, a lot of the symptoms were the same, but the swine flu was different than all the rest. Very different. It took just about everything out of me to fight it.

At a certain point, I felt good enough to return to work, but my recovery time from the swine flu was roughly a month. I would come home from work and lay on the couch and sleep for hours – utterly exhausted. I felt like a freight train hit me. Too tired to change clothes, too tired to even make dinner. The recovery part of the swine flu for me seemed worse than the swine flu itself. But, thank God, I survived.

Fast forward a little over ten years later, and here we are with the Wuhan Coronavirus. It’s hard not to feel a certain sense of déjà vu.

Outside of those who have been directly impacted by it here in America, I don’t think it hit most Americans that we were in for some rough times ahead with it until President Trump’s address to the nation last Wednesday. Between the international travel restrictions, and all the cancellations of sports tournaments, and the decisions made by individual states to shut down schools for several weeks, it’s all suddenly become very, very real.

This is something to take very seriously.

What with the non-stop media reports that feed into the hysteria, and all the varying opinions you read at different websites, and on social media, it’s hard to know how to react except to panic. That includes “panic buying,” which is happening everywhere, including here in Charlotte. People are advertising 12 packs of toilet paper for sale out of their homes on the Nextdoor app. Crazy.

Both my parents are in their 70s now. My dad, in particular, has underlying conditions that make him an exceptionally high risk. I’m extremely concerned about both of them. Most of the people who have died from the Wuhan Coronavirus have been older adults.

Being someone who writes for a living and who has written a lot about the Wuhan Coronavirus over the last few weeks, it’s not like I can just detach myself from it completely, as much as I wish I could. Between having to write about it, having family members who are at high risk, and having gone through a similar experience a decade ago has had me on edge at times. I also suffer from anxiety, and it’s been hard to try and keep that in check.

So what have I done to keep myself from hitting the panic button?

I’ve blocked out time during the day to read things unrelated to the virus. I’ve watched old movies and TV shows, random YouTube videos about funny things. I’m learning new recipes—anything to get my mind off of the virus. I sit on my back porch sometimes to get some fresh air.

I’ve read stories about people who have recovered from the Wuhan Coronavirus. I’ve learned that most diagnosed people as having the virus have recovered from it.

I’ve prayed—a lot.

I also hit the way back button and remembered what I went through in 2009 and how it shaped me afterward. I survived it. The vast majority of the people diagnosed with the swine flu survived it. The statistics for the 2009-2010 swine flu pandemic helped me put things in perspective:

From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (range: 195,086-402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range: 8868-18,306) in the United States due to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus.

Will we see worse numbers with the Wuhan Coronavirus in terms of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths here in the U.S.? The guesstimates from the medical experts have been all over the map. No one knows for sure.

I’m one of those “better be safe than sorry” types, so I’m heeding the advice that’s given by the CDC. I’m practicing “social distancing” now out of an abundance of caution, so I’m not doing a lot of the things I’d typically do (hanging out with friends/neighbors, spending entire afternoons shopping, etc). I will continue to visit and stay with my parents roughly two weeks out of the month each month, Lord-willing, to help them with whatever they need.

Technology being what it is, fortunately, people can do video calls from home to catch up with family members and friends. Now might be an excellent time to familiarize yourself with that, if you’re not already. It’s also a good idea to familiarize your family members with it, too.

The country can make it through this, just as it did with the swine flu. It will be necessary for everyone to remember what we went through in 2009-2010 to keep the panic down in the days, weeks, and months ahead as the 24-7 media reports ramp up even more and up to the minute statistics on Wuhan Coronavirus infections worldwide continue to come in.

Stay safe, everyone.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —


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