×

Back At Home

COVID Doesn’t Slow Down Woman, 103

Priscilla Swanson is pictured with flowers from Tanglewood Manor owner Nick Ferreri after returning this week to Memory Garden in West Ellicott. Swanson had tested positive for COVID-19 and spent two weeks in the intensive care unit at UPMC Chautauqua. Submitted photo

Priscilla Swanson has long been described by those who know her best as a “people person.”

So when the 103-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 and required a two-week stay in the intensive care unit at UPMC Chautauqua, her family worried she would miss being around familiar people and faces.

“Being in the ICU for the whole two weeks, there are no windows and she can’t have flowers,” said Eileen LaPorte, Swanson’s daughter. “The first few days were very confusing for her. People were in full (personal protective equipment) and the contact was very limited. I think it was very hard on her the last few days; she was hardly eating because she lost her appetite, and that is so not my mom.”

Swanson, a resident for the last three years at Memory Garden in West Ellicott, was taken to the hospital in late August for breathing difficulties. Though her breathing issues cleared up, a test for the coronavirus came back positive, prompting a two-week stay at the hospital.

According to LaPorte, her mother was asymptomatic for the virus that has sickened hundreds of thousands since March. Swanson’s family remained in contact with the hospital while she was a patient.

Eileen LaPorte is pictured in March holding a sign that reads “Mom” during a surprise visit to wish Priscilla Swanson a happy 103rd birthday. P-J photo by Scott Kindberg

“I can’t say enough about the nurses and staff there,” LaPorte said of UPMC Chautauqua. “We called every day to check on mom and they were just fantastic. We were able to FaceTime with her, and they were just wonderful.”

Swanson was a longtime nurse at then-named WCA Hospital. She worked in the labor and delivery unit, and upon retiring at the age of 60 was a volunteer with the American Red Cross.

“She loved being a nurse,” her daughter said, later adding, “My mom has always been a very positive person, always looking at the glass as half-full. She just loves people and loves life. And, of course, as a Christian, believes in God and always helping others.”

In March, Swanson’s family — more than 20 strong — surprised her on her 103rd birthday at Memory Garden with signs that read “We love you” and “Happy Birthday.”

Swanson was moved back to Memory Garden on Tuesday after showing no ailments due to COVID-19 for two weeks. Upon returning she immediately regained her appetite, enjoying her favorite sandwich, the Reuben.

LaPorte isn’t surprised by her mother’s resilience.

“Mom was always an athlete,” she said. “She was always a healthy eater and she didn’t smoke or drink.”

Swanson’s return was also met with plenty of enthusiasm from staff at Memory Garden.

“Priscilla is such a loving, funny, and special person,” said administrator Lindsay Vandevelde.

“She loves to give hugs, and enjoys looking through old pictures provided by her family. She attends activities often and especially likes listening to the music programming that we offer. Although some of our programming has changed with the restriction of visitation, she enjoys phone calls weekly with her family.”

Vandevelde added: “To handle all of the major changes that came her way — changing her environment abruptly and remaining in isolation and overcoming all of those challenges — I’m relieved and I’m thankful that this virus, in our case, has proven to not be as detrimental to this population as we all thought. To be 103 and recover from COVID without any symptoms is amazing and reassuring to my staff that recovery is possible, and the diagnosis is not always so scary.

“All of our residents diagnosed have remained stable, asymptomatic, and have been released from isolation/precautions. For my staff, I think that this helps settle the ‘fear’ out there on the stigma of the virus. We are fortunate to have had our residents recover and be able to return back to their home at Memory Garden. The look on Priscilla’s face as she arrived home is something I will never forget. She hopped right back into activities, and enjoyed a Reuben for dinner. She was also able to Facetime with her daughter, Eileen. She is so happy to be back.”

LaPorte said her family is relieved to see Swanson home and back to familiar routines. “When you get the news that your mom, who is 103, has COVID, to hear that she’s asymptomatic you think that’s great,” she said. “We’re all delighted that she’s been able to return to Memory Garden right now. That’s her home.”

Meanwhile, Vandevelde said safety remains a priority. She said the facility has been following guidelines provided by the New York State Department of Health and support with the county Department of Health.

“We have taken extra precautions with use of extra PPE, adjusting our daily operational procedures, and closely monitoring our residents each shift,” she said. “Families have been updated every step of the way, which I hope has been a comfort to them as well, since visitations are still not allowed. I’m thankful for their continued trust and support in us, as we navigate through these uncertain times.”

Newsletter

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
   

COMMENTS

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today