ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Two weeks ago, dark clouds seemed to be forming on the horizon for family of Mary Jane Hastings.
The 99-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 after coming down with what at first seemed like a cold.
A week prior, Hastings’ brother Joe Maid, 98 — the last of her five surviving siblings — succumbed to the respiratory illness, whose victims overwhelmingly are elderly.
“We were scared to death,” Linda Hastings, one of Hastings’ eight children, said of the diagnosis. “It was our worst nightmare.”
A resident of Sage Harbor at Baywinde in Webster, New York, Hastings is in great overall health for someone her age. She's lost a lot of her hearing, which poses day-to-day challenges.
She also has mild chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, so Linda and her siblings thought that if Mary Jane got COVID-19, “That would be it.”
But not only did Hastings recover after a 10-day hospital stay, she’s back at her assisted living facility, where she’s returned to focusing on such mundane, everyday matters as when she’ll be able to get a haircut again. On Thursday she marked her 100th birthday.
“She really is remarkable,” Linda said of her mom, who lost her husband of 49 years, N. Lee Hastings, nearly three decades ago. Until she was in her late 80s, Mary Jane volunteered at an assisted living facility, where she’d push residents around in their wheelchairs — many of whom were younger than and accused her “of going too fast,” Linda said with a laugh.
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“We all are amazed and very, very blessed,” said Patty Fink, another of Mary Jane’s children, about her mother’s recovery, which occurred after she did everything that hospital staff "told her to do to make sure she got better," Linda said.
A massive birthday party had been planned for Mary Jane with children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews flying in from all over the country.
Sadly, that had to be scrapped. But Linda, Patty and their siblings were determined to celebrate the century mark in a big way, even if from a distance.
So family members put together a video of birthday messages for her to watch. And on Thursday afternoon, after cake is served, she’ll be surprised when a convoy of cars driven by family members who still live in town, along with a Webster fire department truck, parade past her assisted living facility.
“We want to make as big a deal of this as we can,” said Linda Hastings, who lives in Orlando but since March has been stranded in California, having traveled there to visit her own grandchild. “I’m so sad I can’t be there,” she said by phone, her voice choked with emotion. “We’re just trying to make this special, just so she understands that this family that she devoted her life to is there.”
And at the rate she’s going, said Hastings, “We’ll probably be able to have that big birthday party at this time next year.”
Follow Marcia Greenwood on Twitter: @MarciaGreenwood