Sheryl Gay Stolberg: Swine Flu Diary: Caught in a Beijing Dragnet

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, White House correspondent for the New York Times, writes a personal account, together with her daughter, Olivia, of Olivia’s experiences being quarantined for swine flu while studying in Beijing. From her introduction:

The phone rang at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 18, jarring me out of an uneasy sleep. My husband and I had been dreading this call. It was our 14-year-old daughter, Olivia, on a language study trip in Beijing. She is usually calm and upbeat. Now she was frantic and crying:

“Mommy, I have a temperature and I’m coughing, and they’re taking me to the hospital. I want to come home.”

I told her to take a deep breath, even as I was shaking. We had feared Olivia could get caught in China’s swine flu dragnet; now those fears had come to pass in what would become a nightmare of bureaucracy and language barriers, against the sleep-depriving backdrop of a 12-hour time difference.

As a White House correspondent and former science writer for The New York Times, I have a professional understanding of international relations and how epidemics spread. My daughter and I are getting a deeply personal lesson in both. Here — as a mother-daughter journal, with Olivia’s dictations from a phone in the hospital — is our story.

July 30, 2009 9:06 PM
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