Daily posts offer perspectives on life, public health

I have a stack of travel journals in which I have documented the early days of many wonderful trips. Unfortunately, I’ve lacked the discipline to finish most of them. So when I saw Christine Dannhausen-Brun posting her coronavirus updates on Facebook week after week, month after month, I was impressed. And I knew I wanted to talk with her.

After a hiatus of several days, during which time she was visiting her family in Door County, she caught up Monday with a post for days 107-126 — “I think!” she wrote.

Her posts have documented everything from everyday walks to town to small miracles — like finding yeast at the grocery story.

A former prevention researcher at Johns Hopkins University with a master’s in public health from the U of I, she said she knew in mid-March the coronavirus would be different than SARS and MERS.

“I was like, ‘This is it. This is happening,’ ” she told me Tuesday. “There was a gut instinct this was something that was going to be big in the United States. This wasn’t going to be something that happened somewhere else in the world.”

She had plenty of reasons to be concerned about the rest of the world, though, with family members in Brussels and France and her daughter, Emma, studying abroad in Spain. (Her return home is featured in one of the earliest posts.)

With her background in public health, Christine said she wanted not only to document what was happening, but to share pertinent health information — such as the importance of wearing masks. She has found the process of writing cathartic.

“If I wrote something down and it was stressing me out, it helped me cope with whatever was happening that day,” she said.

Each post’s content came to her as she sat down to write. Sometimes the entries were brief with a few accompanying photos, while others were lengthy and included many images.

“Some days it would only take 10 minutes to do it. Other days it was a couple of hours,” she added.

Her family — like many — has had its ups and downs over the past four months, all of which she has documented. Her husband, Christian, an anesthesiologist at Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn (and president of its medical staff), has remained healthy. Her mother, who has Alzheimer’s, was fortunate to recover from a heart attack. All six of her children — Jacob, Emma, Rachel, Aiden, Greta and Ava — have celebrated birthdays during the pandemic.

These days the rising cases in other states and plans for school this fall are at the top of her list of concerns. With kids entering fifth, seventh and 12th grade and a junior in college, she said she’s in contact with many different parents as educators debate whether to re-open schools.

“I’m in a Facebook group or friends with people at every level,” she said. “Every level has a different need and every level is handling it differently.”

She said her goal from the beginning has been to get her family members through this time socially, emotionally and physically intact.

“I think there are ways to do it, still have our freedoms and still follow basic public health measures,” she said.

The fact that Christmas and other December holidays are only about 150 days away should motivate us to take precautions so we can celebrate with family members.

“That alone is reason enough to work to try to stop the virus from spreading,” she said.

— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean