“Keep fighting, have that positive attitude and pray,” she says. “And get out of bed.” Don’t stay in bed all the time. … And I want to tell them, ‘If I did it, you can do it. ‘ The fact that she is there to advise others is a surprise to Fortunato herself.
“At the hospital, they said I was a miracle,” said the wife of Long Island, a daughter of Italian immigrants born in the year of the stock market downturn. “Maybe I was. But I worked on it, let me tell you something. “
The widow, mother of five, developed asthma late in life, but was otherwise healthy and strong. She lived in her own apartment until about a year ago, when she moved into assisted living after a fall.
At The Arbors in Jericho, Fortunato – whose last name is Italian for “lucky” – was a bingo fan and always went on casino trips.
She started feeling sick on March 13. She had heard of COVID-19 but didn’t think about it much.
“I have a sore throat, but it’s just a cold,” she said to her daughter Teresa Gund on the phone. “It will be fine. “
During the weekend, her cough got worse. Gund told Arbors staff to call an ambulance. Looking weakly at a nurse’s smartphone, Fortunato saw fear in his daughter’s eyes.
As Gund recalls, “She says,” Don’t worry. I’m fine. I have all faith in God … and God will get me out of it. He doesn’t want me right now. He wants me to stay here with you. “
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, which go away within two to three weeks. For some, especially the elderly and people with health problems, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death.
As his condition worsened, Gund asked to give his mother the final rites. The hospital said it was too dangerous to bring in a priest.
In desperation, Gund said, doctors at Fortunato have administered an antimalarial drug repeatedly touted by President Donald Trump. Its safety or effectiveness against the coronavirus has not been proven; some preliminary reports suggest that it might help, but there is no way of knowing if it helped a particular patient’s recovery.
Whether it was because of this or any other treatment, Fortunato started to improve.
After 13 days in the hospital, she was discharged.
It will be some time before Fortunato can kiss his family or return to Sunday Mass or play slot machines with his fellow citizens, who are now all confined to their rooms due to his illness.
But she doesn’t complain. She knows how lucky she is.
“I had a good husband and my children are wonderful,” said Fortunato, who turns 91 in June. “I lived to see grandchildren and great grandchildren … so I’m lucky. “
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