A 103-YEAR-OLD nun has become Ireland’s oldest coronavirus survivor.
Sister Martha Hickey has been a nun for 80 years.
Three weeks ago, she was taken ill at her nursing home in Cork with suspected COVID-19.
An avid rugby fan and Limerick native, Hickey also holds the unique distinction of having been born before the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that swept the world.
And while there was some concern for the 103-year-old, her hopes of recovery were significantly boosted by her healthy lifestyle – Sister Maria had no underlying medical concerns despite her advancing age.
After three weeks in hospital she has now been discharged, triumphant and fighting fit.
“We are just so proud of her” Anne Linehan, one of Sister Martha’s nieces told he Irish Independent.
“We didn’t think that she would make it at first – it is a fair test to come out of COVID-19 at 103.
“We really didn’t know what to expect when we heard that it was COVID-19 but the doctors and nurses couldn’t be more delighted with her progress.
“Right now, she is up out of the bed and walking with her walking aid and eating and in great spirits.
“The doctors are hoping she will be back in the nursing home early this week.”
Sister Martha had only recently celebrated her 103rd birthday on February 22 and it’s her age that makes this such a remarkable recovery.
“My brother actually said this week that it should be in some paper that she survived COVID-19. Everyone is saying how remarkable it is,” Anne said.
“There are younger people losing their lives so that is why we are all so happy to share Martha’s story, it is lovely to hear good news stories.”
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Born in 1917, Sister Martha was just 19 when she became a nun and has enjoyed a facinating life that has included a stint working in Malaysia and time as a primary school teacher.
Her niece still has fond memories of when Sister Martha would visit.
“‘The nun’ coming home on holidays at our house meant all hands on deck to straighten the place before herself would arrive,” Anne said.
“Martha has a huge love of sports – she absolutely loves rugby Hurling would have been another huge interest of hers she’s also a gardening lover.
“She also has a keen interest in gardening and would sometimes bring a cutting of a favorite plant or flower to her sister Bridie and ensure it was looked after according to her exacting standards.”
So what's the secret to her longevity?
“She has always taken care of herself and was always very conscious of what she ate, she would have eaten mostly vegetarian meals and always exercised,” Anne said.
Her faith remains as stong as ever too.
“She would up to very recently have always carried on saying her prayers,” she said.
“She went to a convent for her secondary education and when she was there she felt the calling to be a nun. I think she would have been 19 at the time. She truly is an exceptional lady.
“The entire Hickey, Maloney and Keane families are incredibly proud that this lady has come out the other end of her battle with COVID-19.
“She is some trooper.”