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117-year-old French nun knocks down Covid-19

The oldest person known in Europe Sister André defeated the coronavirus with barely any complication
Sister André has lived through the 1918 flu pandemic, two world wars and “many sad events”

Elian Peltier   |   New York   |   Published 12.02.21, 01:02 AM

Sister André has lived through the 1918 flu pandemic, two world wars and “many sad events”, she once said. As Europe’s oldest known person, she turned 117 on Thursday, and has now accomplished another feat: defeating the coronavirus, with barely any complication.

“She’s recovered, along with all the residents here,” said David Tavella, the spokesman at the Ste. Catherine Labouré nursing home in Toulon, a city in southeastern France, where Sister André resides.

“She is calm, very radiant and she is quite looking forward to celebrating her 117th birthday,” he said, adding that the home’s most famous resident was resting on Wednesday and needed a break from interviews.

The coronavirus swept through the nursing home last month, just as nurses began consulting residents about vaccinations; 81 of its 88 residents became infected, including Sister André, and 11 eventually died.

Tavella said that until last month no case had been detected in the nursing home since the beginning of the pandemic. Still, the outbreak was a stark reminder that the virus has been devastating in places where the most vulnerable reside, even with stringent restrictions that have turned many nursing homes in the country and elsewhere in Europe into fortresses.

Sister André remained isolated for weeks and felt a bit “patraque”, or off colour,  Tavella said, but she blamed the virus and not her age. She slept more than usual, but she prayed and remained asymptomatic. This week, she became the oldest known person to have survived Covid-19.

“She kept telling me, ‘I’m not afraid of Covid because I’m not afraid of dying, so give my vaccine doses to those who need them,’” Tavella said.

Sister André’s story has made headlines in France, providing some uplifting news in a country where thousands of nursing home residents have died.

Sister André was born Lucile Randon in 1904, and took her ecclesiastical title in 1944 when she joined a Catholic charitable order.

Now blind and in a wheelchair, she has at times felt lonely and dependent, she told French news outlets in interviews in recent years, but has accepted the ordeal that the pandemic has brought, Tavella said. “When you’ve been an adolescent during a pandemic that killed tens of millions, and seen the horrors of two world wars, you do put things into perspective,” Tavella added.

Stories of other ageing figures going through the pandemic have also provided tales of resilience and hope.

New York Times News Service


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