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California Nurse Follows Mother’s Footsteps in Fighting Pandemic

Nurse practitioner Sigrid Stokes, 76, holds a photograph of her mother talking to Shirley Temple, at the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital in Salinas, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)
California Nurse Follows Mother’s Footsteps in Fighting Pandemic
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A California nurse helping to fight COVID-19 says she feels a special link to her mother, who helped battle the 1918 flu pandemic.

Sigrid Stokes is a 76-year-old nurse from Salinas, California. She told The Associated Press she has no plans to immediately retire from her job. She says she is too busy working to save lives during a deadly pandemic, just as her mother did more than a century ago.

Her mother, Kristine Berg Mueller, helped treat people during the flu pandemic that spread around the world in 1918. Today, Stokes is giving vaccinations to health care workers battling COVID-19.

Mueller was a 14-year-old student in her native Norway when the flu pandemic hit. That pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people, including about 675,000 in the United States, records from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention show.

Stokes said her mother wanted to do her part to help those suffering during the pandemic. “So she and a friend volunteered at the local hospital to help out in whatever way they could -- which I would imagine would be things like feeding people, bathing people, changing beds, whatever they could do,” she said.

Many years after the 1918 pandemic, Stokes said her mother told her the experience led her to want to become a nurse. But the family had no money to send Mueller to nursing school.

Her mother moved to the United States in 1923. Four years later, she was accepted into an American nursing program.

Mueller married and settled in Los Angeles, where Stokes’ father ran a bookstore.

One of her mother’s nursing jobs was to work on Hollywood movie sets to make sure child actors stayed safe and healthy. One of the many pictures Stokes has of her mother shows Mueller happily talking to famous child star Shirley Temple.

Stokes said she enjoys her work and now takes the responsibility of giving COVID-19 vaccine shots very seriously. “I give very good shots, I might add, good jabs,” she told the AP.

It wasn’t until Stokes was in her late 20s that she decided she wanted to follow her mother into nursing. “I was volunteering in the pediatric ward and so on and I all of a sudden realized, you know, I really like this,” she said.

Stokes was working part-time when the coronavirus crisis hit he country early last year. She says she was too old to safely treat COVID-19 patients, but knew she could help with vaccinations.

As she arrives to work each day, she wears a pair of earrings she made from a Norwegian necklace that her mother wore each day before her death in 1995.

“I wear them every time I come to work because I feel like it’s a sort of talisman that she’s with me and our family,” Stokes said.

COVID-19 has killed more than 2.3 million people worldwide, including more than 460,000 in the U.S. Stokes says she will not consider retiring until the virus has been slowed.

“We’ve got to get this done,” she said. “We’ve got to get people vaccinated so we can get this country moving again.”

I’m Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

flu n. a common sickness caused by a virus

jab n. to push something quickly and hard into or towards another thing

pediatric wardn. the place in a hospital where children patients are treated

earringn. a piece of jewelry worn on the ear

necklace n. a piece of jewelry worn around the neck

talisman n. an object believed to bring good luck or to keep its owner safe from harm