Eleanora Berns

Pandemic Influenza Storybook

Storyteller: Karla Berns

Location: Iowa

Illustration of curtains moving around an open window

My mother, Eleanora Berns, would have been 102 years old on March 23, 2009. She tells the story of her own survival from the flu pandemic of 1918. She was 13 years of age and came home from school in December very ill. Eleanora went into a coma for over a week with a very high fever. She was placed in a room by herself with the windows open and was packed in ice. The nurse who cared for her had to wear a very heavy fur coat when taking care of her. She lost all of her hair, had to learn to walk again, and missed school the rest of that year. None of the others in the family got it. Eleanora said that whole families died from the flu. For all of her life, she could remember nightmares she had during the time of her illness.

Note: Eleanora died on February 7, 2009.