A World War 2 veteran who survived the Spanish Flu epidemic and the Great Depression has now also beat COVID-19. Best of all, he did it in time to celebrate his 104th birthday.
William Lapschies, who was stationed in the Aleutian Islands during WWII, is now believed to be the world’s oldest COVID-19 survivor.
According to reports, Mr. Lapschies knocked Zhang Guangfen, a 103-year-old grandmother in Wuhan, China off top spot. Relegating Mr. P, an unnamed 101-year-old Italian Spanish Flu survivor and WWII veteran to third place.
Yes, it’s ridiculous to report on who is the oldest survivor but if it gets people to shine a light on a veteran who deserves to be celebrated, then it’s worth it.
A social distancing party
Mr. Lapschies was one of two residents at Oregon’s Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home who first showed the symptoms of the coronavirus.
The veteran was put into isolation on the 5th of March, 27 days before his April 1st birthday. By the time his test returned positive, March 11th, the coronavirus had spread to several others in the Veterans’ Home and has since taken one life.
A local Oregon TV station covering the story asked Mr. Lapschies how he felt, “Pretty good. I made it,” he replied. He added “Good for a few more.”
Mr. Lapschies’ 100th birthday celebration had 200 people in attendance, his 104th was much more low key. His family, who had created signs and carried balloons to the Veterans’ Home weren’t allowed inside because of the new coronavirus state restrictions.
The family, including Mr. Lapschies’ daughter Carolee Brown and husband Jim, spaced out following the 6ft social distancing rules and watched as staff wheeled him out wearing a WWII veteran hat.
When asked about what it was like seeing her father on his birthday, Carolee said: “We were like shocked that he was kind of sitting in his wheelchair waving at us through the window and we were like, ‘He’s going make it’.”
Mr. Lapschies’ family includes two grandchildren, six great grandchildren and five great great grandchildren.
A moderate case
As those in attendance celebrated, The 104-year-old Mr. Lapschies was asked how he managed to survive COVID-19, he replied “It just went away. Sit out here and you can get rid of anything.”
Son-in-law Jim Brown said “Bill’s pretty resilient.”
According to Dr. Rob Richardson, one of the doctors at the Veterans’ Home, Mr. Lapschies had only a moderate case of the coronavirus and fortunately never developed severe respiratory issues. The doctor added “this could have easily gone another way,” and “there’s not a lot of interventions that can be done.”
Considering Mr. Lapschies has lived through:
- The Spanish Flu epidemic, which infected 500 million (a quarter of the population of the world at the time) and killed 50 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1920.
- The Great Depression, the world’s worst economic depression that began in 1929 and lasted a decade.
- The Second World War, which began in 1939 and ended in 1945.
- And now COVID-19…
Moderate case or not, Jim Brown’s right, Mr. Lapschies is resilient.