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91-Year-Old Former Flight Attendant From Central Jersey Beats Coronavirus Odds

Jean Powell (seated, on phone) speaks with daughter Kim Wedemeyer (top left) and granddaugther Shaylin Bell (top right) on her 91st birthday, after beating COVID-19 (Photo: Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Toms River)
Jean Powell (seated, on phone) speaks with daughter Kim Wedemeyer (top left) and granddaugther Shaylin Bell (top right) on her 91st birthday, after beating COVID-19 (Photo: Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Toms River) Photo Credit: Courtesy: Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital

A 91-year-old great-grandmother from Central Jersey beat the coronavirus odds.

After being hospitalized last month with coronavirus and pneumonia, Jean Powell -- a former flight attendant from Manchester -- is among the rare survivors from her age group. 

Powell's 65-year-old daughter from Lacey, Kim Wedemeyer, had feared the worst, telling the Asbury Park Press: “I thought she was gone. . . .They say when old people get this, it’s a death sentence.”

“I thought she was gone,” Wedemeyer said. “They say when old people get this, it’s a death sentence.”

Not for Powell. After 10 days, Community Medical Center in Toms River phoned Wedemeyer with surprising news: Powell was ready to be discharged.

“I was shocked I said, ‘Are you sure?’” Wedemeyer told the newspaper. “I thought, ‘I wonder if they’re making a mistake.’”

Although Powell needed supplemental oxygen and battled a steady fever, she never required a ventilator. The mother of four was transferred to Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Toms River, where she celebrated her 91st birthday on April 26, before returning home to Crestwood Manor in Manchester.

The hardest part about the ordeal, Wedemeyer told the newspaper, was being unable to see her mother in person for three-plus weeks: “My biggest concern was that she would die alone,” she said. “If it was her time, I didn’t want her to be by herself.”

Powell suffers from dementia, but on the day she turned 91, she was overjoyed as Wedemeyer and granddaughter Shaylin Bell wished her birthday greetings just outside her room, holding a large sign in the window while calling her on the phone. 

The next day, Jean Powell was discharged. Wedemeyer came to pick her up, and the rehabilitation staff brought out a wheelchair to move her from the facility to the car.

“No,” the 91-year-old coronavirus survivor said. “I can walk.”

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