Mem­o­ries of hell

Sunday Star-Times - - FOCUS -

Mau­rice O’Cal­laghan, St John am­bu­lance vol­un­teer

One house I went to was in Grey Lynn, where we found a man who had been dead three days. His body was in the bed, and his wife was ly­ing in the same bed, not dead but driven out of her mind by the fact that she was ly­ing in bed with a dead hus­band and could not get up. We had to get the hus­band buried and an or­der from the health au­thor­i­ties for the woman to be placed in Avon­dale Men­tal Hos­pi­tal.

Grace Ste­wart, from Pa­pakura

My fa­ther, my­self and my twin sis­ters caught the flu. An­other sis­ter who was del­i­cate nursed the twins whilst my mother nursed fa­ther and me, and she never caught it. I was then about 17 years of age. Un­til then I was very healthy and ro­bust...[but] I never re­gained my usual health. My fin­gers and fin­ger­nails went black. My tongue was cov­ered in some sort of fun­gus half an inch thick, which I would scrape off and then rinse my mouth ev­ery morn­ing. The pain in the whole of my body was un­bear­able.

Jean For­rester, St John vol­un­teer who helped at the tem­po­rary in­fluenza hos­pi­tal in the Sed­don Me­mo­rial Tech­ni­cal Col­lege in Auck­land

[One man] was deliri­ous and kept ask­ing if it was four o’clock, as he was go­ing to die then. Four o’clock came and went but he did not die then. He just couldn’t ac­cept that he hadn’t died, and be­came so de­ranged in his rav­ings that he was re­moved to the men­tal hos­pi­tal.

Irma Pick­ett’s fa­ther worked for the Auck­land Har­bour Board

One day be­fore I got sick I had been sent to the shops on a mes­sage. I was a very nosy child so I was in­ter­ested on the way home to see a big fur­ni­ture van stop in Welling­ton St and men were bring­ing out of houses what seemed to be rolled up rugs, and then I saw feet stick­ing out at one end. An­other time on my way home I was pass­ing an old shop and saw a note in pen­cil stuck to the door which said ‘For God’s sake help us.’ I told my mother who rang the po­lice. I heard later that a fam­ily of five were dead, some found on the floor. The house at the back of the shop had to be hosed out by the Fire Bri­gade

Bert In­g­ley was a cadet in the Cus­toms Depart­ment in Welling­ton

I woke from a most dis­turbed sleep with some sort of ir­ri­ta­tion in my nose, and when I switched on the light I found that blood was be­gin­ning to pour from both nos­trils. I tum­bled out of bed to the wash stand, half filled the basin with wa­ter from the jug, placed the basin on the chair be­side the bed, and got back un­der the blan­kets. Af­ter a while the bleed­ing stopped, but by this time the basin ap­peared to be full of blood. The only af­ter-ef­fect was the shed­ding of all my hair. I be­came quite bald for a time. I also be­came ex­tremely hun­gry dur­ing my con­va­les­cence, and lived only for food and yet more food.

Ge­of­frey Rice, right, has in­ter­viewed Ki­wis – see in­set story – about the 1918 Span­ish Flu out­break which lead to the use of zinc sul­phate in­hala­tions, above, and Govt-is­sued medicines, above.

Grace Ste­wart and Bert In­g­ley.

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