She survived stage 4 melanoma, suffered two broken hips, and lived through the Spanish Flu. Now, 104-year-old is recovering from COVID-19. Her nursing home, Sheepshead Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Brooklyn, is calling it a miracle.
Her family and caretakers at the nursing facility feared Acconciamessa wouldn’t be able to pull through. Due to her age, a recent fractured hip, as well as recovery from c.diff, another highly contagious infection, her immune system was already compromised.
“She always used to say, ‘I was born under a lucky star.’ That was her mantra in life. And you know what? To be able to get through this virus, those words often come to my mind,” Senese told CBS News.
Acconciamessa tested positive for COVID-19 on April 4. She required oxygen and became very weak and unable to eat or talk. Her daughter, Barbara Senese, 77, said her mother developed a very bad cough, “and then after that she went strictly downhill.”
“We really didn’t think she was going to be able to pull through this,” Senese told CBS News. “She wasn’t even able to speak. She was lifeless. And now she’s eating. She’s talking.”
Before the coronavirus required nursing homes to enforce strict isolation, Senese and her sister, Johann Giordano, visited their mother nearly every day. After lockdown was put into effect, the sisters were able to meet their mother at her first-floor window, protected with masks and gloves. The last time they saw their mother in person was on March 26.
“They brought her to us in a wheelchair by the window. The window was open just a tiny bit so she could hear our voices,” Senese said. “She didn’t move a muscle and she stared at us. Just a stare. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that — ever. We were begging her for 10 to 15 minutes to say something. She said nothing. When we walked away, I said to my sister, ‘She’s sick. She has the virus.'”
Senese received a call from a social worker at the nursing facility a week later— Acconciamessa had tested positive for COVID-19. “It was a really rough go. I used to just break down and cry,” Senese said.
While their mother was sick and going through the worst of it, Senese said it was difficult to keep in touch.
“If we tried to call, she didn’t have the strength to take [the phone] off the cradle to speak to us. She sometimes would just say, ‘Too weak, too weak. can’t talk.'”
They attempted to video chat with Acconciamessa, but Senese said, “ninety percent of the time, my mother was out of it, totally. Eyes closed, in a bed no response.”
“My mom made me promise her seven months ago, that when it was her time to be called home back to God, that she would die in her own home,” Senese said. “I said of course, mom, of course. So that tortured me because I remember how she made me promise her… I never thought that if she did pass away, that I would not be with her holding her hand or comforting her during her final days. And that became, for my sister and myself, mental torture,” she said.
But on March 24, Senese received a call with the good news that her mother was feeling, “much, much better,” and she could potentially return home.
“At 104 years, I think it’s a miracle to survive through COVID,” said Marco Perrone, the Nursing Administration Supervisor at the facility told CBS News. “We have people 40, 50 years old, passing due to COVID. So, 104 years old it’s amazing she was able to survive through this.”
Senese describes her mother as a “fighter” who always has a positive outlook on life. Until she was 95, she loved to exercise and walked 5 miles a day in Marine Park, Brooklyn, dubbed “health park” by Acconciamessa.
Other longevity tips from the miracle survivor? Eat one red McIntosh apple, and drink a glass of red wine each day— like Acconciamessa did until she was 102.