Ron Smith Care Centre’s 103-year-old coronavirus survivor

After 14 days in isolation, 103-year-old coronavirus survivor Kitty Venn is back in her pretty room at Ron Smith Care Centre in Lyndhurst just outside of Johannesburg.

After 14 days in isolation, 103-year-old coronavirus survivor Kitty Venn is back in her pretty room at Ron Smith Care Centre in Lyndhurst just outside of Johannesburg.

“It is exceptionally remarkable that someone of her age has survived a pandemic that has ravaged old ages homes throughout the world,” says Dr Christina Eleftheriades, who cared for the centenarian during her time in the care centre’s isolation facility.

Dr Eleftheriades is one of two in-house doctors with practices at the Rand Aid Association-run care centre. She and colleague Dr Carmella Mielke have worked tirelessly with Ron Smith Care Centre’s dedicated nursing team to ensure Kitty and other aged residents who contracted the virus received professional yet loving care.

Kitty’s daughter Carol Cunningham was in Australia when South Africa went into lockdown and is sheltering there until the nation’s borders re-open. The news of her mom’s illness left Carol feeling extremely anxious, given the distance separating them.

“Fortunately, the care centre’s Sr Leanie Bessinger contacted us daily to report on Mom’s condition, which gave us incredible peace of mind,” says Carol.

“Huge thanks must go to Dr Mielke, Dr Eleftheriades and Sr Bessinger and her team who tenderly nursed my mom though this awful virus,” says Carol. “They made her comfortable, administered her oxygen and for 24/7, nursed her back to health.

“She has now returned to her room at the Lakeside wing of the care centre, much to the delight of the staff there. Her carer, Elizabeth Peterson, quickly set to work brushing and styling Mom’s hair and putting lipstick, eye shadow, earrings and a necklace on for her return photo.

“Mom has always been a special lady with a heart of gold. She never complains, is kind and loving, generous and compassionate and never demands anything! She always said: ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything’.”

Sr Bessinger adds that Kitty remained her usual happy self while in isolation. “On day three, she started to improve and asked for tea with milk. When we did our rounds, she always gave us a big smile.”

Kitty was born Doreen Ruby Mole in Swakopmund, South West Africa, on 5 April, 1917. She grew up in Pretoria where her father was a magistrate. At the end of World War II, she married Oliver Venn, an air force pilot, and they raised their four children in Sandringham.

“Mom has 18 grandchildren and 30 great grandchildren who love her as much as she loves them,” says Carol. “Elphin Lodge – the retirement village where Ron Smith Care Centre is based – was her happy home for over 15 years until she moved into the care centre four years ago.

“She supported all the wonderful social events at Elphin Lodge, frequented the popular on-site Elphino’s coffee shop and, of course, played her bridge at least twice a week. Mom was always an active lady and played tennis until she was 89.

“Her move to the care centre was a blessing and although she was sad to give up her cottage, she adapted easily into her lovely room, which opens out onto the garden. She has made new friends and her friends from the cottages have one by one joined her at Lakeside.”

For more information, call Ron Smith Care Centre at 010 534 6595

Kitty Venn, who played tennis until she was 89, is an 103-year-old coronavirus survivor from Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre.

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