Dormant Dionne Virus Flares

Oh, I should know better.

I’m listening to an audiobook: The Immortal Game by David Shenk. A history of chess.

At the beginning of the book, the author suggests that the best way to understand chess is to think of it as a virus that infects the brain, pushing all other thoughts aside.

I have a virus like that. Nothing to do with chess; I’m Mr. Patzer.

This other “brain virus” – the one I seem to suffer from – began with a localized outbreak in Ontario, Canada, in May of 1934. It spread quickly, infecting tens of millions of people, and didn’t disappear until well into the 1940’s. Truth be told, in the depths of the great depression, most people were only too willing to let their other thoughts get pushed aside.

It is no longer a threat, although it’s still possible to catch this virus via direct brain-to-brain transmission. The internet may have spawned one or two isolated cases.

I’ve been in remission for years, but yesterday, I was archiving an old VHS tape onto DVD and made a terrible mistake. I started watching the program. I couldn’t stop and subsequently suffered a severe flare-up.

A bit of that program appears below.

WARNING: It is very likely that you already have full immunity to this virus, and it is highly improbable that exposure to the short video will result in infection. If, however, you feel yourself becoming transfixed, stop watching immediately and call a doctor. With that warning, meet Annette, C├ęcile, Emelie, Marie and Yvonne Dionne.

Doctor Dafoe. The “modest little country doctor” whose ability to take advantage of his patients wasn’t equaled until Brian Wilson’s therapist started taking co-writing credit and put himself into the will.

It is the proud Doctor Dafoe who presents the sisters.

Doctor Dafoe who “permits the parents to see their babies occasionally.”

Did he invent the lies, or just go along with them? Dafoe only delivered two of the sisters (two midwives handled the first three), and while his efforts may indeed have saved some lives in the Quintuplets’ first few days of life, no one today could deny that Dafoe’s lasting legacy and enduring achievement was the total destruction of the Dionne family. Dafoe, in collusion with the government, built a “hospital” across the street from the Dionne home, kidnapped the babies, and displayed them to the public as a tourist attraction.

If there was something beneath Doctor Dafoe’s dignity, it was never discovered. Eventually, Oliva Dionne (the sisters’ father) went public with his displeasure, and eventually, he won them back. But by then it was too late.

It seems incredible today, even unimaginable, but the Dionne Quintuplets were a source of continuing fascination and infatuation in the months and years following their birth. People kept scrapbooks of magazine pictures, went to see Dionne newsreels and feature movies, devoured articles by the dozen, and bought Quintuplet calendars, spoons, dolls, books, postcards and whatever the Quints endorsed: dental cream, syrup, candy bars, soap, disinfectant and breakfast food, to name just a few. The quints even endorsed “Body By Fisher”for General Motors.

Today, it is not uncommon for sets of quintuplets and even sextuplets to occur (fertility drugs) and survive (sophisticated neonatal care).

Yet the survival of the Dionnes – identical quintuplets – remains unique. Twice before their birth (in 1786 and 1849) and four times since (in 1936, 1959, 2004, and 2007) identical quintuplets have been born, but the Dionne Quintuplets still represent the only instance where all five infants survived.

The word “miracle” is tossed about the Dionnes almost as frequently as the word “magic” is brought into play for Disney. But if their birth and survival were, as many believed, the result of divine intervention, it’s difficult to understand why a subsequent miracle never materialized to save the girls from a life of confusion, exploitation, misery, and poverty. Two of the five are still alive today.

This is how the virus has mutated: the original strain was cultivated in those willing to believe the “fairy-tale” existence myth propagated by the media. The current strain has to do with truth and tragedy. Click here for Part Two of this post.

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