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Video: World War II veteran beats COVID-19, goes home on 101st birthday

Nurses from the Bristol-Burlington Health District collects a patient's nasal swab at Bristol Hospital's drive-through coronavirus specimen collection station. The station has collected over 120 samples on previous days but, due to a scarcity of specimen collection kits, the hospital collects 40 tests a day. (Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/TNS)

Turning 101 years old is quite a feat. So is surviving the highly contagious COVID-19 coronavirus at an advanced age.

On Wednesday, Twin Cities World War II veteran Samuel Nilva did both.

Staff members at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center gathered at his bedside to sing “Happy Birthday” as family members through a video chat joined the chorus.

“Wonderful,” Nilva said.

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Then Nilva got the best present he could get. The hospital gave him his discharge papers, allowing him to go home.

“Today was a great day. We were able to celebrate a veteran turning 101 and going home after surviving COVID,” Breena Eam, a registered nurse at the hospital, said in a short video posted on the Minneapolis VA Health Care System’s Facebook page. “It’s days like today that keep our spirits up because it’s so nice to hear that there are people out there who are getting better and able to recover at home.”

Nilva’s caregivers on Ward 3E signed a birthday card, gave it to him, then cheered and clapped as he was wheeled down the hall as part of the joyful send off.

“Even the highest risk Veterans can beat this,” part of a message accompanying the Facebook video reads. “Happy Birthday to Mr. Samuel Nilva. Thank you for your service and for being a true inspiration.”

In a response to the posting, Nilva’s daughter, Barbara, said her dad is recovering nicely.

“He gives us all hope,” she wrote.

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© 2020 the Star Tribune