104-year-old veteran recovers from coronavirus in time to celebrate his birthday

William “Bill” Lapschies recently celebrated his 104th birthday.

His family brought balloons, chocolate cake, and his favorite pizza. The day was extraordinarily special. But not only because Bill was turning 104.

The day was also special because he made a full recovery from coronavirus, becoming one of the oldest known survivors of COVID-19.

In the early days of March, William, along with a group of elderly people living together in a state-run veterans’ facility in Lebanon, Oregon, were the first Oregon residents to test positive for coronavirus. Understandably, his family was worried the illness would prove deadly.

His granddaughter, Jamie Yutzie, shares with The Washington Post:

“We all thought, ‘He’s 103, what are the odds he’s going to come out of this?'”

Elderly people are still the most vulnerable ones in the battle against coronavirus. They suffer many complications at a higher rate than young adults who catch the virus. Tragically, oftentimes these complications are fatal. However, some elderly patients have beat the virus.

For instance, last month, a 95-year-old man, also in Oregon, recovered from COVID-19 after having mild symptoms. Another 90-year-old woman in Seattle recovered at the Life Care Center senior facility, one of the hardest-hit nursing homes in the U.S. outbreak. Moreover, a 101-year-old Italian man also won in the vicious battle with the deadly virus.

The doctors who treated William told his family he had pneumonia. After this, on March 11, he tested positive for coronavirus.

On some days, his health appeared to improve. He was smiling under the medical mask as doctors were taking care of him. On others, his condition was getting worse. Yutzie explains:

“That virus goes up and down, and you really don’t know what the next day is going to bring. After those couple of long days where we weren’t quite sure, he just got better and better.”

While the 104-year-old man was in the hospital, his family visited him several times a week. Since they couldn’t go to his room, they were watching him through the window, calling him so that they could hear his voice.

On Friday, March 27, medics happily announced he had cleared the virus and he can celebrate.

On Wednesday, April 1, William’s 104th birthday, he was finally feeling good again.

The most wonderful gift he could ever receive was the freedom of taking the mask off and step outside for the first time in weeks.

His daughter, Carolee Brown, shares with the Oregonian:

“He is fully recovered. He is very perky. And he is very excited.”

William was born on April 1, 1916. After finishing high school, he worked at a paper mill in Salem, Oregon. In 1939, he got married to Almadean “Deanie” Buetell. They had two daughters, six grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren. Unfortunately, Deanie died of ovarian cancer in 2001, after they were married for 62 years. Since 2019, William lives in the veterans’ home.

On Wednesday, the family visited the birthday boy’s home to celebrate his recovery and, of course, his 104th birthday.

He was allowed to step outside and wave them with his ‘great big huge contagious smile that just lights up a room’, from a socially distant six feet away. Then, his great-grandchildren brought delicious chocolate cake and talked to him through the window in his room.

Thanks to William’s optimism and cheerfulness, his family handled easier the pain of watching a loved one suffer through the disease.

His story was an inspiration to many. In fact, even Oregon Governor Kate Brown sent her best wishes to the 104-year-old man who recovered from COVID-19.

Sending happy birthday wishes to Bill on his 104th birthday! He's one of Oregon's honored veterans and has just…

Posted by Governor Kate Brown on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Furthermore, the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home has reported 15 confirmed coronavirus cases among residents. Luckily, at least eight of the infected people have recovered.

William’s granddaughter credits his recovery to the health-care workers inside the veterans’ home.

“They’re the heroes now. They’re the ones on the front lines and in the trenches.”

For William’s almost unbelievable recovery, Yutzie shares:

“It’s part of why he’s lived so long, he’s not going to give up. He had a lot of help this time. We’re very lucky, we certainly didn’t want the virus to take him at almost 104.”

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