97-year-old Covid survivor says hope may be the key

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97-year-old Covid survivor says hope may be the key

Hwang Yeong-ju, 97 years old, in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Dec. 23. Hwang is the oldest person in Korea to completely recover from Covid-19. [SONG BONG-GEUN]

Hwang Yeong-ju, 97 years old, in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Dec. 23. Hwang is the oldest person in Korea to completely recover from Covid-19. [SONG BONG-GEUN]

 
It's been a year since Covid-19 started to sweep the global community.
 
The sad reality is that Covid-19 won't just disappear in the new year. As of midnight on Jan. 31, 2021, the cumulative number of confirmed cases in Korea was 78,508, and the total number of recoveries was 68,309.
 
Seventy percent of confirmed cases are currently completely cured.
 
The JoongAng Ilbo reached out for an interview with the oldest person in Korea to completely recover from the Covid-19 infection.
 
“Those of you with Covid, please get well soon and get discharged from the hospital,” said Hwang Yeong-ju, a 97-year-old woman.
 
“Neither the patient nor the guardian should let go of the light of hope,” her son Hong Hyo-won added, as Hwang has difficulty communicating due to age. “No matter how bad the disease is, you can overcome it with the love of your family.”
 
Hwang overcame Covid-19 in 12 days. She stayed for only about half of the average hospitalization period, which is 20.7 days.
 
On the afternoon of Dec. 23 last year, Hwang, during her interview with the JoongAng Ilbo in Gaknam-myeon of Cheongdo County, North Gyeongsang, looked so healthy that it was hard to believe that she was hospitalized with Covid-19 only a few months ago.
 
She had no problem with her physical movement or expressing her opinions from time to time. Hwang welcomed the reporters, saying “You’ve had a hard time getting here.” She had been at home resting for a while after visiting the Senior Citizen’s Day Care Center.
 
Hwang was diagnosed with Covid-19 last year and was hospitalized at Pohang Medical Center.
 
“Shortly after my mother was hospitalized, she completely rejected food and water and had no will to treat it,” said Hong.
 
“I think she tried to let go of her life by her loneliness when she was separated from her family, but she was able to overcome due to the medical staff's dedication.”
 
“I overcame [Covid] too, nearing the age of 100, so why wouldn't you be able to?” Hwang said.
 
Hwang worried about her son, who was in poor health during while he was hospitalized for stomach cancer. The mother and son moved to Cheongdo in 2002 to find an airy place after Hong underwent his surgery.
 
As Hwang suffered from dementia and depression, Hong guided her mother to the Senior Citizen’s Day Care Center. Her symptoms of dementia improved as she hung out with her friends through physical therapy and recreation at the center.
 
When she was hospitalized with Covid-19, staff from the Day Care Center called every day, saying, “Let’s get out of the hospital and have fun with your friends again.” She enjoys learning Chinese characters, doing arithmetic, painting and playing puzzle games in the center. She especially loves Chinese characters and arithmetic.


She especially likes vegetables and enjoys snacks such as dried persimmons and rice cakes.
 
“Social distancing should be done thoroughly during the Lunar New Year holidays,” Hwang and Hong agreed.
 
“People who are older than my mother need more thorough hygiene management and also need to comply with quarantine rules more strictly than younger people,” Hong continued. “I think we should postpone meeting people and spend [the holidays] quietly this year.”
 
But the treatment that Hwang emphasized was hope. "We need to stick to social distancing and keep hope even if we get sick,” she said.
 
“If you don’t let go of hope, like my mother, you can overcome Covid-19, and I hope you don’t let go of your life because you’re old and sick,” Hong added. 
 
Hwang finished by saying, “If you struggling with Covid-19, I hope you can get home soon.”
 
BY KIM JUNG-SEOK   [kjdnational@joongang.co.kr]
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