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At 90 years young, Geneva Wood, of Washington state, has always been a fighter. But after she contracted the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, her family feared her stubbornness might not be enough.
However, just this week, they were overjoyed to be proven wrong, crediting "the doctors and nurses and our strong-willed grandma" to Wood's return home, virus-free. For several agonizing weeks, it didn't look as though she would have such a happy ending.
On March 5, Wood — a mother to four, grandmother to 11, great-grandmother to 12 and a great-great-grandmother to three — was transported to Harborview Medical Center after showing symptoms of the coronavirus, said to include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
She had been living at The Life Care Center in Kirkland since January after suffering a stroke, which caused her to temporarily lose the ability to walk, talk and the use of her right arm. The senior-living facility later made national headlines when it was found to be the epicenter of an outbreak in Washington state. Of the 60 deaths reported in King County, at least 35 are associated with the nursing home, according to recent estimates.
Wood tested positive for the virus the next day, sending her family into a panic.
“My heart sank when I heard that she had tested positive. I was so sure she would be OK. She had fought so hard to come back from the stroke, how could it be possible that a virus was going to take her out?” Cami Neidigh, one of Wood’s children, told Fox News in an email. When faced with adverse life events, Neidigh noted that her mother has “never quit.”
“She never does,” she added.
But at age 90, would sheer willpower be enough? After all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly warned older people, specifically those over the age of 65, as well as those with compromised immune systems, may be at a higher risk for severe illness associated with COVID-19.
The following days were a whirlwind for the woman’s family, who were only allowed to see her through a glass window for fears they, too, could contract the virus.
“She has always been a survivor and very determined. When she fell and broke her hip, I knew she would be disappointed and be a bit down for a little while. However, I knew that she would pull herself up again and get busy to get better,” said Neidigh. But her faith began to wane when her mother was put into isolation.
“She needs her family. She doesn't do well by herself. I was afraid this would be her straw and she would give up,” she said.
And for a while, it would appear Wood wasn't going to make it. At one point, doctors called Wood’s family to come to the hospital, worried she could pass at any time.
Neidigh said she and her siblings were only allowed to see their mother through a glass window.
“Not being able to see her was extremely hard. When we were allowed to view her through the window, it helped but it also was heartbreaking. To be so close and not be able to reach out and touch her? [It was] brutal. When she reached out her arm and you're on the other side of a wall — I can't even put it into words, it tears your heart out,” she recalled.
Neidigh said her mother then began to cry for her children, prompting medical staff to allow the family to go into her room while wearing protective gear.
“It was a gift and at the same time cruel. We could touch her hand, rub her arm through the gloves. No hugging. Talk softly, slowly and comfort her. Let her know we were all okay and not to worry about us,” Neidigh said. “She wanted to tell each of us goodbye, tell us how proud she was of us.”
Just when all hope appeared to be lost, Wood did what was seemingly impossible: Improve.
On Sunday, Wood, after undergoing a series of tests, was declared “coronavirus free,” Neidigh said. “The staff who has been treating her told her by coming into a room with a sign, all without masks. Something she hasn't seen for weeks.”
Wood was discharged from the hospital this week, returning home to her apartment to self-quarantine with designated family members.
Neidigh said she hopes her mother’s story serves as a glimmer of hope as the world continues through the pandemic.
“Getting this virus is not a death sentence for the elderly or anybody," she said. Rather, in Neidigh's opinion, "It's a wake-up call to take care of each other. Find positive ways to help each other out. People want feel-good stories to give them guidance out of the gloom and doom.”
Echoing Neidigh was her daughter-in-law Kate, who called Wood a "fighter."
"Our family is beyond proud of her," she told Fox News. "To families currently fighting and hoping and praying for a positive outcome we encourage you to look to Geneva Wood for some much-needed hope. What the world needs more than ever right now is a positive story and we are so thankful to the doctors and nurses and our strong-willed grandma for giving us that message of hope that we all so badly needed."
Still, speaking to her mother’s remarkable recovery, Neidigh added: "If anyone's going to give the middle finger to a killer virus, it's her.”