102-Year-Old New York Woman Recovers From Coronavirus | WAMC

102-Year-Old New York Woman Recovers From Coronavirus

May 18, 2020
Originally published on May 18, 2020 5:03 pm

Sophie Avouris was a newborn in Greece when the 1918 influenza pandemic spread through Europe. Now, at 102, she has survived a coronavirus infection in a Manhattan rehabilitation center.

Not many people can say they have lived through both events.

"We just didn't think she would be able to make it," her daughter, Effie Strouthides, told NPR. "The doctor told us we couldn't come to visit her, but if it gets really serious and [toward] the end they would allow us to come and see her. So we were prepared for that."

In March, Avouris was recovering from hip replacement surgery in the Mary Manning Walsh nursing home in Manhattan when her doctor noticed something was off.

"She's a very talkative lady," Dr. Taimur Mirza told NPR. "She's the person that will often come up to the [nurse's station] and start up a conversation with the nurse or myself. She speaks Greek only, so in my case, I use Google Translate on my phone, and when she stopped doing that is when I got worried."

She got a fever the same day and tested positive for the coronavirus.

Her daughter was worried. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 80% of people who died of COVID-19 in the U.S. are 65 or older.

"The second time I spoke to her, she kept saying how sick she felt and that she couldn't even talk on the phone," Strouthides said.

Despite her age and congestive heart failure, she got better after two weeks. She has been asymptomatic for six weeks, although she continues to test positive for the virus.

"Even when she was really sick the doctors said she was still kind of spry. She would joke around a little bit or smile when he would come in. And I thought yeah, that's my mother," Strouthides said.

Avouris' doctor and daughter attribute her recovery to her strong constitution and also maybe her lifelong Mediterranean diet — but the true reasons still remain a mystery.

"She's a fighter," Mirza said.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

And now we have a story about a survivor.

EFFIE STROUTHIDES: She was born in 1918, when the Spanish flu had begun in Europe. She survived that, of course, and World War II, the Depression.

KING: After all that, Sophie Avouris immigrated from Greece to New York City in the '50s. And then in March, a few weeks after she turned 102, she was diagnosed with coronavirus. Her daughter, Effie Strouthides, didn't have much hope.

STROUTHIDES: We just didn't think she would be able to make it. The doctor told us we couldn't come to visit her. But if it gets really serious and towards the end, they would allow us to come and see her. So we were prepared for that.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Avouris was at Mary Manning Walsh nursing home in Manhattan, where she was already familiar to her doctor, Taimur Mirza.

TAIMUR MIRZA: She's a very talkative lady. She's the person that will often come up to the desk and start up a conversation with the nurse or with myself. She speaks Greek only. So in my case, I use google translate on my phone. And when she stopped doing that is when I got worried.

INSKEEP: She got a fever that day. She tested positive and moved to a COVID floor. Through phone calls and video chats, her daughter saw her get worse.

STROUTHIDES: The second time I spoke to her, she kept saying how sick she felt and that she couldn't even talk on the phone.

KING: The CDC says that 80% of people who died of COVID-19 in this country are 65 or older. But despite her age and despite her congestive heart failure, Avouris got better after two weeks. Dr. Mirza has no idea why. But he gives her the credit.

MIRZA: She is just a very strong patient. And she had a big part in her own recovery here.

STROUTHIDES: Even when she was, like, really sick, the doctors said she was still kind of spry. She would joke around a little bit or smile (laughter) when he would come in. And I thought, yeah, that's my mother.

KING: Her daughter and her doctor marveling over Sophie Avouris, who survived COVID-19 at the age of 102. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.