A 102-year-old woman from Italy was hospitalized for nearly three weeks due to COVID-19 — and now she’s reportedly stunning doctors after successfully recovering from the illness.
Doctors who treated Italica Grondona are now calling her “Highlander – the immortal” after she spent more than 20 days at San Martino Hospital in Genoa, only to survive the virus that has been especially threatening to people around her age, CNN reported.
“Italica represents a hope for all the elderly facing this pandemic,” Dr. Vera Sicbaldi told the outlet after treating the centenarian.
Italica’s bout with illness started earlier this month when she began showing “mild symptoms” of coronavirus and was subsequently hospitalized for “mild heart failure,” Sicbaldi told CNN.
“She only had some mild coronavirus symptoms, so we tested her and she was positive,” Sicbaldi explained.
During their time treating her, Sicbaldi’s team realized that this wasn’t the first pandemic Italica had survived.
She also lived through the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu Pandemic — which killed at least 50 million people worldwide, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors thought would be interesting to study, CNN reported.
“We got serological samples,” Sicbaldi shared to the outlet. “She is the first patient we know that might have gone through the ‘Spanish flu’ since she was born in 1917.”
Eventually, Italica became well enough to get discharged from the hospital on March 26. She has since been recovering in a care home, according to CNN.
Though many would assume the doctors were to thank for her recovery, Sicbaldi said he simply credited Italica’s strength and determination.
“We did very little,” he told CNN. “She recovered on her own.”
And it is that very fact that astounds even those who are closest to her, including Italica’s nephew Renato Villa Grondona.
“I don’t know what her secret is, but I know she is a free and independent woman… she loves life, dancing, and music,” Renato told CNN. “The virus surrendered in front of her.”
Since its initial outbreak, coronavirus has severely impacted Italy with at least 105,792 reported cases and at least 12,428 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon, according to The New York Times.
For a seven-day period, Italy held the title as the country most devastated by the virus, officially surpassing China on March 19 for the most deaths related to COVID-19, CNN reported.
A full lockdown was implemented on March 9, stopping the country’s citizens from any travel through the country or from going outside. With overwhelmed hospitals and ventilators in short supply, some Italian doctors were also forced to decide which patients are more likely to survive, and should get the needed breathing help.
By March 24, Italian health officials reported that they were beginning to see the number of new cases and deaths decline following their lockdown.
Data collected by the World Health Organization showed that the number of new cases between March 22 and 23 declined by 997 — from 6,557 to 5,560.
“We can say that today is the first positive day,” Giulio Gallera, the leading health official in Lombardy, said last Monday, according to the Times. “It’s not the moment to sing victory, but we finally see light at the end of the tunnel.”
On Thursday, the United States officially displaced Italy as the hardest-hit country. As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been at least 173,741 reported cases in the U.S. and at least 3,433 reported deaths, according to the Times.
Still, it appears Italy is not in the clear just yet. Within a week of those initial reports from Italian health officials, the number of new coronavirus cases has risen from 5,560 to 5,974, the WHO reported on Monday.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.
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