Posts Tagged ‘spina bifida’

My Uncle’s Tragedy

May 18, 2020

Excess Mortality

Charles Benjey, one of my uncles, was born on August 13, 1919 and died on February 12, 1990. He was well known for his corny jokes and listening to opera in that Illinois farmhouse on the prairie. But he was better known locally for having survived being born with spina bifida. I remember him saying on his 45th birthday, “Nobody ever expected me to live this long.” He, and everyone else, attributed his survival to his mother’s dedication plus the tough Sawyer genes she passed on to him.

Unfortunately, Grandma Benjey was pregnant with Charles when she was struck with the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19. It is quite probable the devastating influenza caused Charles’s spine to be open to the atmosphere. She did everything humanly possible for a woman of limited means on a farm decades before electricity was available to it. She succeeded and Charles lived to be 70, an age few with spina bifida reach.

Researching the book on Lone Star Dietz gained me some familiarity with the 1918-19 pandemic. (I don’t call it the Spanish Influenza because the most likely source was Camp Funston, Kansas.) Seeing considerably different results in different parts of the country and within states themselves, brought to mind a chart I had come across for the 1918-19 pandemic. That influenza struck cities at differing rates, most dependent upon the steps taken to prevent its spread, is similar to what is happening today. That chart is shown below. The 2020 pandemic isn’t finished yet but the death will likely be far less than a century ago.

Toledo, at 0.17% of its population, experienced the lowest mortality of any city listed. With the U. S. population at 330,000,000 today, devastation of that rate would be 561,000 people, five times what is currently being projected. If the country experiences the rate of Nashville, the highest city at 0.83%, the total would be 2,739,000 souls.