Unconquerable Human Spirit by Brian Etherington

Young female hands and old male hands Photograph by Anatoliy YK

Having contracted polio at the age of nine months many years ago and listened to the stories of how my Mother and Father coped in that pandemic; I never thought for a moment that the modern world would in my lifetime be brought to its knees by another.

I was placed in quarantine in Hamilton General Hospital for a year under the care of Matron and a dedicated nursing staff. Of course I had the easy part and also retain no memory of the experience. My parents on the other hand, who had just been transferred to Kingston, Ontario had the hard part: driving weekly on the old King’s Highway #2  through every town and village, some of the road unpaved in a 12 hour round trip in order to look at me through the glass for a few minutes.

Just as when we fast forward to 2020 and note that Highways 401 and 403 now cut that auto journey in half; we assumed that advances in medical science would have reduced dramatically the chances of a major pandemic reoccurrence.

How wrong we were. Scenes of loved one’s being seen only through glass in hospitals and long term care facilities; families wrenched apart; first responders overwhelmed; fear pervading the streets ; schools shuttered and the economy crashing to a halt made us all realize that life remains fragile.

The one sure thing history teaches us is that eventually every crisis will pass. Just as a vaccine was discovered for polio, the same will occur for the Covid-19. Just as kindness, smiles, empathy and understanding from neighbours, colleagues, friends and family helped my parents survive their worst nightmare, we today see many similar acts of extreme selflessness and compassion.

This crisis will pass; its toll will be long remembered – but it’s antidotes will have as much to do with the unconquerable human spirit as it will with science.