At 102, Sophie Avouris of Queens has seen a lot: two world wars, the Great Depression, 9/11. So when she became sick weeks after her birthday in January, after surgery in Westchester and physiotherapy at Mary Manning Walsh nursing and rehabilitation facility on the Upper East Side, her family didn't think much of it.
Then, they got a call from the nursing home that Avouris had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Her daughter Effie Strouthides says she began fearing the worst.
"We were stunned," Strouthides admits. "We were thinking, at 102, it's a very lethal virus, and that she wouldn't make it."
But Avouris - one of six children born in Greece the same year World War I ended and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic began - did make it. For someone who experienced all that, a second world war, and then the challenges of immigrating to the U.S. and raising a family in Jackson Heights, COVID-19 seemed to be no match.
When Strouthides got another call this week saying her mother would be leaving the COVID unit at Mary Manning Walsh and moved to her own room, she says she was delighted.
"She really pulled through," Strouthides said. "We've always known that she had a very strong constitution. She made it up to 102!"
ArchCare, the arm of the Archidiocese of New York that runs her facility, made headlines last month because staff had to re-use masks and wear rain ponchos because of a shortage of protective gowns. They still could use more protective equipment, but donations from across the country and Canada have increased ArchCare's one-day supply about fourfold.
Scott LaRue is ArchCare's president and CEO, and has personally made deliveries to several facilities.
"ArchCare's staff provide care for nearly 4,000 elderly and sick people in the New York area, and the sudden realization a few weeks ago there wasn't enough PPE for all his staff was stressful," LaRue said.
"To find that nursing homes were in a secondary position to receive what limited PPE supplies there were was surprising," he added.
While there's still much to be learned about the virus, medical experts have said the most vulnerable to COVID-19 are people at least 60 years old, and those with underlying health conditions. The disease has claimed the lives of 30 and 40-somethings. More than 100 people in the care of ArchCare, either in nursing homes, hospitals, or their own homes, have died.
"The fact we had a 102-year-old who was actually the first individual we were aware of to contract COVID-19 and is one of the first to recover is truly a blessing on this Easter weekend," LaRue said.
Sophie Avouris will celebrate next weekend. She and her family are Greek Orthodox, and looking forward to her 103rd Easter.