N.B. youth shares story of 106-year-old great grandmother who has lived through two pandemics

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New Brunswick youth shares story of 106-year-old great grandmother who has lived through two pandemics
WATCH: A pandemic of this scale is something most of us have never seen in our lifetime, but Bertha Roy is seeing it for a second time. – Apr 16, 2020

Most people experiencing the novel coronavirus pandemic have never experienced anything like this, but one New Brunswick woman has been through it twice.

Twelve-year-old Anna Stocker has written a story about how her 106-year-old great-grandmother survived the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

She got the idea from her mother, a New Brunswick teacher, who suggested she do some research about her great grandmother, Bertha Roy.

Roy grew up in Balmoral, N.B., amid the 1918 influenza outbreak.

READ MORE: Here’s how the Spanish Flu is similar and different from the coronavirus

Stocker found that her grandmother had just turned 5 years old when the worst of the virus hit her community.

“It must have been so much harder back then without all of the modern amenities,” she told Global News.

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READ MORE: N.B. nurse, 85, comes out of retirement to help care for seniors amid pandemic

Roy is alive and well, living in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic in a New Brunswick nursing home.

Unable to visit due to safety measures to curb the spread of the virus, Stocker said she interviewed Roy from a distance by emailing the questions to her grandmother who transcribed the responses.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canadians diagnosed with COVID-19 describe it as ‘worse than any flu’

The 12-year-old then penned her grandmother’s life story using her own words, saying she hopes to inspire people today to heed the warnings about preventing the spread of COVID-19.

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“It is definitely a lot easier than what they had to go through because I mean we have the technology to keep informed,” as well as running water to stay clean, Roy told Stocker.

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Stocker writes that against the odds, her great grandmother survived the influenza pandemic.

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Her great-grandmother’s “childhood home held a large family of 9 children and two adults at that particular time.”

While Roy’s brothers did become ill, they were not among the roughly 55,000 Canadians who were ultimately killed by the disease.

Stocker said her great-grandmother never contracted the virus thanks to the tireless efforts her great-great-grandmother, who isolated the boys in a boarded-up room away from the rest of the family.

“To assist the children she went to, she’d change her clothes and then entered their bedroom through the window,” Stocker wrote. “She would do that several times a day.”

“It seems extreme she understood the importance of physical distancing,” said Stocker.

READ MORE: New Brunswick grandmother dressed in costumes spreads joy amid coronavirus pandemic

Her great-great-grandmother’s dedication to keeping her family safe is admirable, said Stocker.

“She worked to care for her family … [and] ended up keeping her whole family alive.”

The moral of her story, Stocker said, is just as meaningful today.

“Each individual person can do their part to help stop this pandemic from just growing and growing.”

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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