The older you are, the more likely you are to experience serious illness from COVID-19. But there are always exceptions to the rule. One Hawaiian-born woman, who now lives in an adult community in Manahawkin, NJ, along the Jersey Shore, has beaten COVID-19 at the impressive age of 105.
In fact, it was on her 105th birthday when Lucia DeClerck learned she had contracted the virus. The news came on January 25, the day after DeClerck got her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Michael Neiman, the nursing home administrator, told The New York Times.
DeClerck told The Times that she was "scared" at first, upon hearing of her diagnosis. Although she showed few symptoms of the illness, she didn't like being isolated. She also missed her interaction with her caregivers at the Mystic Meadows Rehabilitation and Nursing facility in Little Egg Harbor, where she's the oldest resident and was active until she injured herself in a fall about four years ago.
But the devout Catholic declared, "God will protect me," and within two weeks DeClerck had recovered and was back in her room at the home, Neiman said.
Naturally, when DeClerck's family—two surviving sons, five grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and 11 great-great grandchildren—found out she had contracted the coronavirus, they prepared themselves for the worst. It was a stark contrast to life in January 2020, when the family congregated at Mystic Meadows to celebrate DeClerck's 104th birthday, not long before the start of the pandemic.
"We were very concerned," son Phillip Laws, 78, told The Times. "But she's got a tenacity that is unbelievable. And she's got that rosary—all the time."
Another 61 Mystic Meadows residents have contracted the coronavirus, four of whom died, including three who were receiving hospice care, Neiman said. "We're as careful as possible," he said, "but this finds a way of sneaking in."
The fact that DeClerck had been vaccinated is likely to have aided her recovery. On February 22, early data on the UK's mass vaccination program revealed strong evidence that even one dose of the vaccine can help reduce hospitalizations related to COVID-19.
The same day, DeClerck got a shout-out from New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy, who described a phone call with her during a coronavirus news briefing. "What an uplifting conversation," Murphy said, according to The Times.
Surprisingly, DeClerck isn't the oldest person to beat the coronavirus. Europe's oldest known resident, Sister André, contracted the virus at age 116. Earlier this month, she celebrated her 117th with a glass of champagne at a nursing home in the city of Toulon in southeastern France.
DeClerck's 53-year-old granddaughter, Shawn Laws O'Neil, told The Times that the woman they call Grandma Lucia "has beaten everything that's come her way."
"She is just the epitome of perseverance," O'Neil added. "Her mind is so sharp. She will remember things when I was a kid that I don't even remember."
DeClerck may have had a secret weapon up her sleeve. She said her survival may have had something to do with one of her daily habits. For most of her life, she ate nine gin-soaked golden raisins each morning.
"Fill a jar," she said. "Nine raisins a day after it sits for nine days."
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