Suffering delirium - 1918 influenza pandemic

The effects of influenza sent some people 'raving mad'.


[Woman speaking] And the thing was, they came in with terrific temperatures, and if we couldn't get those temperatures down, they dropped suddenly – below subnormal – and they started delirium. And once they got very delirious, we just couldn't save them, and there was no way of bringing the temperatures down then except by cold sponging. And that had to be done by somebody with experience, you see, otherwise they'd get an awful shock if it's badly done and chills as well. So I'm trying to keep the patients moderately clean, and then when they got really delirious, keeping them in bed. And the noise of the delirium at night was terrific.

[Man speaking] And he went raving mad one night before they took him away. He was running around the room with a knife; he just couldn't control himself. So they came and took him away to the hospital. Next morning they came over and told me poor old Jack had died, so that was one of my mates who went.

[Man speaking] One particular night there was a chap – I won't mention any names – but he jumped out of bed, and I grabbed him, and I said, 'Where are you going?' He was a big fella, and, of course, I'm not very big, but I got me arms around, just big around him and said, 'Come on, come on back to bed.' 'Let me go. Let me go,' he said. 'Let me go,' he said, 'I must get down and meet Massey and Ward.' Massey and Ward at that time were coming back from an imperial conference at home [Britain], you see, and anyway, I said, 'Come on, get back into bed.' Yes, I got him back. I just got him onto [the] bed, and he said, 'Oh, God,' he said, and he was dead as a doornail, just went dead.

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