Icelandic Woman, almost 103, Survives COVID-19

Helga Guðmundsdóttir, with a healthcare worker at Berg nursing home, …

Helga Guðmundsdóttir, with a healthcare worker at Berg nursing home, Bolungarvík. Photo/Agnes Veronika

Vala Hafstað

Helga Guðmundsdóttir, a 102-year-old resident of Berg nursing home in Bolungarvík, the West Fjords, recovered from COVID-19 in time for her 103rd birthday, coming up May 17.

Her recovery has caught attention abroad, and an interview with her was published Friday on , the online publication of the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe.

Helga was less than a year old when the Spanish flu hit Iceland. At the time, her uncle was quarantined on the farm where she and her 11 siblings grew up, near Selfoss, Southwest Iceland.

She married a fisherman in Bolungarvík after World War II and has lived there ever since.

Helga Guðmundsdóttir.

Helga Guðmundsdóttir. Photo/Agnes Veronika

In 1952, when her son was two weeks old, she had a relapse of tuberculosis, which she had caught as a young girl. As a result, she had to move to Vífilsstaðir, a sanatorium near Reykjavík, where she stayed for half a year, recuperating.

She and her husband had three children, and the grandchildren are six.

Helga lost her husband when she was about 90 years old and continued living at home. At 98, she was still considered much too healthy to qualify for a nursing home, but was eventually admitted.

When the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Iceland, her granddaughter Agnes Veronika Hauksdóttir signed up for work at the nursing home where her grandmother was staying. Several cases of the disease at the home had forced health care workers and residents into quarantine, creating a need for extra workers. Just like all other staff members, Agnes had to wear protective gear at work.

“She is a very positive person, always laughing,” Agnes sates, describing her grandmother. “I am sure that this has contributed to her good health and surviving COVID-19.”

“I have survived it all, haven’t I?” Helga told reporters. She has indeed and is looking forward to her birthday.

You can read the whole interview in English here .


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