Oregon Spanish flu survivor and WWII veteran aged 104 becomes world’s oldest person to recover from Covid-19
- Bill Lapschies, 104, is believed to be the world’s oldest coronavirus survivor
- His veteran’s home has to date reported 16 Covid-19 cases among its residents
- Of those, eight recovered, two are in a serious condition, and two have died
- Two nurses, turned away for testing, continued working for a week with the virus
A 104-year-old man, who survived World War II and the Spanish Flu pandemic, is believed to be the world’s oldest coronavirus survivor.
Bill Lapschies, who was born in Salem in 1916, first displayed symptoms commonly associated with the deadly virus, on March 5.
He was quickly put into isolation at the Edward C Allworth Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, Oregon, where he currently resides.
He was one of the first two residents at the home who tested positive for the virus on March 11. The other, a man in his 90s, has since died.
Bill Lapschies, 104, seen here wearing a protective mask outside the home on his birthday
Getting a bit of TLC here, Bill Lapschies receives a nice warm patterned blanket in recovery
Edward C Allworth Veterans’ Home has to date reported 16 Covid-19 cases among its residents.
Eight have recovered, one has no symptoms, two are in a serious condition, and two have died. The remaining three are stable.
Oregon Health Authority announced the state’s first Covid-19 case in nearby Marion County around the same time Lapschies became symptomatic.
Lapschies had contracted a ‘moderate’ case of coronavirus, according to his physician, Doctor Rob Richardson, but never developed the severe breathing problems associated.
Had he not been residing at the Edward C Allworth Veterans’ Home at the time of catching the virus, he likely would have been transferred to a hospital, Doctor Richardson said.
‘This could have easily gone another way,’ added Richardson. ‘There’s not a lot of interventions that can be done.’
In a wheelchair, wearing a WWII cap and face mask, Bill Lapschies on his 104th birthday
Doctor Richardson told Oregon Public Broadcasting he knew it was a matter of ‘when, not if’ Covid-19 impacted his facility. ‘I thought we might have a 30 percent mortality rate here in our facility because all of our veterans have some other medical problems.’
In February, the Edward C Allworth Veterans’ Home insisted on screening all people visiting the facility and limiting visitations – however they did not stop entirely.
By early March, residents like Lapschies suspected of the virus began entering into isolation. Doctor Richardson said some in the facility had some sort of respiratory infection he suspected was Covid-19.
Two nurses who had been in contact with Lapschies and the other first infected resident who died also showed similar symptoms.
They were told by the home to get tested, but were turned away with ‘mild’ symptoms and continued working another week. Both later tested positive.
Veterans Care Centers of Oregon, who oversee the home, declined to comment, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Family of Bill Lapschies, 104, seen here with signs to celebrate the Covid-19 survivor’s birthday
On April 1, Lapschies celebrated his 104th birthday at the facility with his family – and 25 days since his first Covid-19 symptoms and 19 days since he developed a fever.
Appearing outside the facility sporting a World War II cap, pale blue protective face mask, and sitting in his wheelchair, Lapschies’ granddaughter Jamie Yutzie asked the 104 year old how he beat it.
‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘It just went away. Sit out here and you can get rid of anything.’
To mark his big birthday, and surviving Covid-19, Lapschies’ family brought along balloons and cake to the celebration, and carried signs too. Of course, everyone ensured they were spaced out by some six feet, adhering to social distancing.
Salem-born Lapschies came into the world in 1916.
Having first survived the 1918 Spanish Flu that saw between 50 to 100 million people wiped out across the world, Lapschies then had to endure the Great Depression of the 1930s, which began in the US.
Then, in 1939, Lapschies married Alamadean ‘Deanie’ Buetell, with whom he had two daughters.
The pair would stay married until Alamadean passed away in 2001.
Lapschies was drafted to the US Army in 1943 to fight in World War II. He was to be stationed in the Aleutian Islands, dispatching trucks and heavy equipment for the war effort.
His daughter Carolee Brown described her father as ‘a wonderful family man’.
Lapschies is one of the lucky ones. Statistically speaking, Covid-19 is particularly dangerous for elderly persons, especially those with with underlying health conditions.
Older Americans account for 80 percent of coronavirus-related deaths, according to research coming out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lapschies joins a cohort of the world’s oldest Covid-19 survivors.
Zhang Guangfen, a 103-year-old grandmother in China, recovered from Covid-19 following a six-day treatment in Wuhan. She is so far believed to be the oldest surviving coronavirus patient in China, two years older than the previous record-holder, who is 101.
A 103-year-old unnamed woman in Iran also recovered after being hospitalized in the central city of Semnan for about a week.
Italica Grondona, a 102-year-old woman, recovered in the San Martino hospital in Genoa, Italy. She was nicknamed ‘Highlander’ – the immortal, after spending more than 20 days in hospital.
And a 96-year-old woman in South Korea became the oldest patient in the country to fully recover from coronavirus. The woman, from Cheongdo County close to the southern city of Daegu, made a full recovery after being treated at the Pohang public clinic.
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