DETROIT LAKES, Minn. (NBC) – If you ask Tillie Dybing about the pandemic, she might reply, ‘which one?’
She was not yet 5 years old when the 1918 flu pandemic hit her dirt floor North Dakota farm home.
“My folks got sick and they were in bed, and I’d run into the bed and my dad said, ‘Can’t you find another place to run,’” Tillie recalls on a Zoom call from her Detroit Lakes, Minnesota community home.
It was the first of many trials Tillie would endure.
She lost several siblings in their infancy. She survived three major floods in Minot, N.D., lost her husband in her 80s and beat uterine cancer at 95 years old.
This summer, she turned 107, celebrating the occasion with nurses while isolated from family to keep the coronavirus from hitting the nursing home.
And it worked, until one day in November.
“I tried to call her Saturday morning, and I tried calling all day and the nurse said she’s sleeping,” said Tillie’s daughter Susan Berke. “We were really concerned and thought, well, this is probably it.”
After that long rest, Tillie awoke feeling fine, she said.
“Didn’t even know I had it. I didn’t know I had it,” she said.
It wasn’t until the following week that Tillie tested positive for COVID-19, still feeling no other symptoms except being tired.
“Nothing in her lungs. They said she doesn’t have a fever. She just slept all the time,” said Berke.
Two weeks passed, and Tillie has since moved back into her normal room at the facility feeling healthy. Now, at 107 years old, a survivor of not one but two viral pandemics.
“I thought, well, if the time has come that I have to leave, then I will go, but I’m still here,” Tillie said.
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