'Feisty' 99-Year-Old Great-Grandmother Beats Coronavirus and Celebrates in Exit Parade
A 99-year-old great-grandmother has a lot to celebrate after recovering from COVID-19.
Earlier this month, Anne Giardino was diagnosed with coronavirus after being admitted to Stony Brook Hospital in New York, her daughter Camille Stordeur tells PEOPLE.
But less than 30 days later, Stordeur, her family, and the team at Hamlet Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center at Nesconset watched with tears as Giardino proudly walked out of the facility with a rainbow sign that read: "I'm 99 and I crushed COVID-19!"
"She's a queen, she's Wonder Woman," Stordeur, 71, says of her mother after the parade on Wednesday.
People ages 65 and older are at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus, as are people with underlying medical issues such as heart conditions, obesity, diabetes, liver disease, and chronic kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, Stordeur says Giardino had no underlying health conditions and was active in her community, serving as a lector at her assisted living home and the Hamlet twice a week. However, on April 3, Giardino developed a cough.
"She spoke in front of a crowd on Wednesday [ahead of] Palm Sunday services," Stordeur explains. "She was fine and then this beast just came in and attacked her breathing… When she got to the hospital on Monday, they immediately gave her oxygen."
Despite her hospitalization, Stordeur says she was adamant her mother — who raised four children and has 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren — would beat the virus.
"I wasn’t going to lose my mother to COVID-19. There was no way, she was healthy," she recalls. "She's too strong of a woman."
And as it turns out, she was right. Following a week in the hospital, Giardino was transferred to the Hamlet rehab center — the same place she stayed two years ago after a fall that broke her pelvis.
The Smithtown resident arrived via stretcher, according to Hamlet spokesperson Ashley Romano, and spent 10 days there before she was officially discharged in front of a large crowd of cheering staff members and rainbow balloons and signs on Wednesday.
"My eyes filled up," Stordeur recalls of the celebration. "It was a parade of life walking out… and it was overwhelming to see how she's so loved."
Though the sweet moment — captured by Stordeur, as well as a number of local reporters, including News 12 Long Island's Jamie Stuart — meant a lot to Giardino's family, it also was meaningful to the Hamlet staff.
"When people come in on a stretcher and they leave walking, as clinicians that’s all the team can hope for," Romano tells PEOPLE. "I think it gives the everyday person the opportunity for hope and inspiration. If Anne can do it, we can all do it."
"She came in and needed support and assistance eating and walking. But then for her to be the spitfire she is and walk out with her tie-dye sign, that’s what it's all about," Romano continues. "She's someone who is an inspiration — not only to her family but to the Hamlet family, as well."
Giardino's recovery certainly didn't come as a surprise to Stordeur, who notes she danced in heels during a trip to South Africa when she was 92, prefers sambuca over water, and demands chocolate ice cream.
"She doesn't take any pills [other than] a sleeping pill — who has to take a sleeping pill at that age?" Stordeur notes. "I'll never forget, she said, 'Why didn't I die?' That was a little heavy to hear, but my mother is feisty and that's why she's still around. She would never rock in a rocking chair — that doesn't rock with my mother."
Now that Giardino is settled back in her home, which is not allowing visitors due to the pandemic, Stordeur says she looks forward to the day that they can reunite again. Regardless of how long that may take, she's confident Giardino won't miss a beat.
"She's full of life," Stordeur says. "She's gonna be 100 in September and she helps the people [at the assisted living home] where she lives — she opens the door for them, helps them get around."
"Her motto is, 'You can't stop, you gotta keep going' … and that’s what she does," adds Stordeur. "We wouldn’t let her go, it wasn’t her time. She’s got too much life in her."
As of Wednesday, there have been over 1 million cases and 60,945 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the U.S., according to the New York Times.
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