A surprising number of centenarians have defied the odds and licked coronavirus, even as it keeps knocking out much younger patients.
One 104-year-old Brooklyn woman had already survived the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, cancer and two broken hips before she beat the coronavirus last month.
Another century-old survivor is a former fire department dispatcher from Long Island who retired at 95 before besting the bug. Another is an Oregon vet who made it through World War II and now COVID-19.
“I think attitude has something to do with it,” said Dr. Alicia Ines Arbaje, associate professor of geriatric medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. “I think these folks have just found ways to be resilient physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.”
“I think someone who’s 100 has lived through so many things that I feel none of us has a great idea about,” she added. “But they’ve made it this far with some kind of resilience and resolve, and that has served them.”
Here’s a look at some of the oldest survivors of the global pandemic:
Ida Acconciamessa, 104
Ida Acconciamessa with her daughter Barbara SeneseFacebook
The Brooklyn resident lived through the Spanish flu, two world wars, cancer, and a recent infection that affects the colon by the time she was diagnosed with COVID-19 on April 4.
Healthcare professionals at the Sheepshead Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, the nursing home where Acconciamessa lived, didn’t give her much hope, as her cough worsened and her family said she was barely responsive.
“We really didn’t think she was going to pull through this,” her daughter, Barbara Senese, told CBS News. “She wasn’t able to speak. She was lifeless.”
But on April 24, came a new call telling Senese her mother had tested negative for the virus. By May 1, she was “very chatty.”
Officials at the nursing home called it a miracle. Her secret? Senese said her mom walked five miles a day until she was 95, and had a glass of red wine and a red McIntosh apple every single day until she was 102.
Angelina Friedman, 101
Friedman, a resident at a Westchester County nursing home, has “superhuman DNA,” her family said.
The daughter of Italian immigrants, Friedman was born on a US-bound ship on the Atlantic Ocean in 1918, even as the Spanish flu raged. Raised in Brooklyn, she has made it through more than her share of hardships, her family said.
“My mother is a survivor,” her daughter, Joanne Merola, told WPIX-TV. “She survived miscarriages, internal bleeding, and cancer.”
Friedman’s latest hurdle came March 21, when she went to the hospital for a minor medical procedure and tested positive for the coronavirus. After a week in the hospital, she returned to the Northern Westchester Restorative Therapy and Nursing Center in Mohegan Lake, where she remained in isolation.
On April 20, she tested negative — not entirely a surprise to Friedman’s family.
“She is not human,” Merola said. “She has superhuman DNA.”
Rose Heely, 100
The British centenarian had such a reputation for being tough as nails that she was nicknamed “boomerang” for her ability to bounce back from illness.
She proved it again by beating coronavirus last week.
Heely, who is from Sheffield in South Yorkshire, had landed on her feet after two heart attacks, scarlet fever, diphtheria, and whooping cough,. Now afflicted with COVID-19, her daughter told South West News Service that the family expected “she would come out dancing.”
Friedman said she attributes her ability to rebound to a nightly cup of tea with whiskey and a gingernut biscuit.
“She’s our little boomerang,” Tracey Appleyard said of her mom. “She never fails to come back with a vengeance.”
Rose Leigh-Manuel, 101
“She’s good in a crisis,” the Long Island resident’s son told ABC-News.
Leigh-Manuel, who has four children, 17 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren, and several great-great-grandchildren, once worked as a fire department dispatcher, and didn’t retire until she was 95, her son, Gary Leigh-Manuel, told the outlet.
A resident of Good Samaritan Nursing and Rehabilitation Care Center in Sayville, Leigh-Manuel tested positive for the virus after feeling weak with fever and chills. But, just two weeks later, she was cleared and was back enjoying her favorite snack — vanilla-flavored Oreos.
Rudolph “Rudi” Heider, 107
Heider celebrated his 107th birthday after beating COVID-19 — seven years after he walked away from a major stroke.
And even the stroke didn’t slow down the Missouri centenarian — he later broke two vertebrae while ballroom dancing with his girlfriend, his family told KSDK-TV.
“Yes, he has lived quite a life out here, and that’s just retirement,” his son, Robert Heider, told the outlet.
And he hasn’t lost his sense of humor. Asked by the station how it felt to turn 107, Heider shot back: “Like I’m 170.”
He credits his love of family for his incredible resilience.
Cornelia Ras, 107
The Dutch survivor has long maintained a ritual of getting on her knees and thanking the Lord every night. She’ll be able to keep doing it.
Ras began feeling sick on March 18, the day after her 107th birthday. Her fever jumped to over 100 degrees and she developed a cough — among about 40 residents believed to have contracted the COVID-19 bug at a local church service, according to news reports.
Two and a half weeks later, Ras, who lives in a nursing home on the island of Goeree-Overflakkee in the Netherlands, tested negative for the virus.
“We did not expect her to survive this,” her niece, Maaike de Groot, told reporters. “She takes no medicines, still walks well and gets down on her knees every nigh to thank the Lord.”
“From the looks of it, she will be able to continue to do so,” de Groot added.
William “Bill” Lapschies, 104
Lapschies, who was stationed in the Aleutian Islands during the Second World War, was one of two residents to test positive for the virus at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans Home in Lebanon, Oregon, on March 10.
He was cleared of the virus in time for his birthday at the end of the month — albeit with social distancing guidelines in place.
“It seemed like he just made this wonderful recovery,” Brown said. “We were like shocked that he was kind of sitting in his wheelchair waving at us through the window and we were like, ‘He’s gonna make it!’”