Surviving the Flu - Part 1

How one group beat the Spanish flu in 1918


When it comes to something as rare as a pandemic, knowing the history of past pandemics is very helpful. Learning about how people survived them is invaluable.


In 2007 I attended a week-long seminar on natural remedies at the Wildwood Lifestyle Institute. Dr. Bernell Baldwin—a brilliant man who has since passed—lectured to us about hydrotherapy. But this was not a lecture about how to apply hydrotherapy; it was a lecture on the Spanish flu, how it had devastated the world in 1918, how it could happen again, and how Seventh day Adventists had used hydrotherapy and other natural remedies to save lives during the worst pandemic known to humankind.


If you don’t know about Seventh day Adventists, they are a Christian Protestant denomination that began in the late 1800’s. They believe in the interconnectedness of the physical, spiritual, and mental health. Even as far back as 1918, Adventists had sanitariums, or lifestyle centers, where individuals could stay for a short time and learn about natural ways to heal and a God who who had provided these natural remedies.


As Dr. Baldwin presented the photos of the makeshift hospitals and as I learned the staggering statistics, I felt the gravity of the situation and the horror of what it must have been like to have lived during that time. I was amazed that I had made it into my 30’s without really knowing about the subject.


I was impressed by how brave the front line workers were to risk their own lives to help others. Dr. Baldwin’s mother—a young woman during the time of the flu—was a front line worker helping people recover from the flu. Dr. Baldwin recounted how the mayor of her town would come pick his mother up every evening so that she could take care of his daughter who had fallen ill. 


I was also impressed with how powerfully lifestyle and natural remedies worked in the treatment of the Spanish flu at the Adventist sanitariums. During the Spanish Flu pandemic, inpatients at sanitariums were being treated around the clock with natural remedies and the mortality rate for these patients was extremely low. One worker recalled that they were so successful in treating the flu that they knew that if the patients were standing when they made it to the sanitarium, that they would be able to save their lives.


When the flu had been contained, 10 different Adventist sanitariums gathered their data on over 1000 patients. Of these, about 670 were outpatients who went home to treat themselves and about 450 who were inpatients at the sanitarium. For these who were outpatients and self-treated, the mortality rate was 4%. For inpatients, the mortality rate was less than 1%. Considering that the mortality rate for those infected worldwide was between 10-20%, these statistics are very amazing and offer much hope.


I had used natural remedies before, but to see how the use of such simple therapies made such a powerful impact on morbidity and mortality in such a grave situation was eye-opening and jaw-dropping. I was attending the conference at a time when flesh-eating bacteria stories were flooding the media and there was a lot of fear about antibiotic-resistance. I was prayerfully pondering these issues.


Dr. Baldwin’s lecture was a paradigm-shifting experience, as I realized the limitations of the medical and evolutionary science that I had been trained in. I realized in a meaningful way the mercy and grace of God in making FREELY available to ALL people powerful, safe, and effective ways to not only prevent, but to fight even killer diseases.

Another thing that I was impressed with during my time at Wildwood was the knowledge that the devastation of the Spanish Flu would happen again. Only it would be even more devastating. In Matt 24, Jesus’ disciples asked Him how they would know that He was coming.


He replied that some of the signs of the times would be: “There shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”


According to the Bible, these disasters will become more and more frequent and more disastrous. I believe we see evidence of that today.


Just as it is prudent for us to know how to plan for the future for the things that we typically think of (career, college, spouse etc), it would be prudent to prepare for the future as the Bible states it will be. To consider how you will keep your family healthy in a time of pestilence (Epidemics) and to understand what causes pestilences are just some of the things to consider as we pray for wisdom as to how to live in these portentous times. For those of us who believe the Bible, will we plan for the future differently than those who don’t? For those of us who believe the Bible, how will we be a help to those who don’t?


I think it is important that we not be overwhelmed by the panic and fear around us. The Bible tells us that as people in the world reject God more and more, that God’s Spirit will be withdrawn from the world and because of that there will be less love and kindness and more cruelty and disasters seen. Life will get increasingly harder. What Jesus tells us that we should do when we see these things happening is not to panic but instead to do this: “Now when these things begin to happen, LOOK UP and LIFT UP YOUR HEADS, because your REDEMPTION DRAWS NEAR.”


As we witness the fear around us, as we are tempted to give in to panic, let’s keep the promises of God in mind. The One who created us, died for us, and lives for us, is coming back for us. We need to focus on how we can continue to live out our purpose—to help others to live by bringing the life and the light of the knowledge of God to others—and leave the results to Him.


In upcoming blogs, I’ll write about therapies that were used in the Adventist sanitariums to save hundreds of lives and some of the principles of natural remedies we recommend.  You will learn what lifestyle practices you can adopt for yourselves and for your families to prepare for the flu. Remember that this is health education and not medical advice. Follow the advice given by health organizations for hygiene, avoiding unnecessary gatherings/travel, do all you can to build up your immune system, and most importantly, keep the faith!


This article republished with permission from Dr. Joyce Choe. Visit her site at www.drjoycechoe.com

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