VIDEO: Mississauga woman who survived COVID-19 celebrates her 102nd birthday


Published July 9, 2020 at 8:38 pm


A woman who recently recovered from the novel coronavirus just met with family and friends outside of her Mississauga long-term care home (from a safe distance, of course) to celebrate her 102nd birthday. 

Sarah Bontogon says Jovita Lee, her grandmother (or Lola in Filipino), tested positive for COVID-19 in early April–just weeks after moving into the Erin Mills Lodge long-term care home. 

“It was really tough because we had been struggling with the idea of whether to place her in a home because she couldn’t use the stairs anymore and her bedroom was on the second floor,” Bontogon told 

The province went into lockdown just two weeks after Lee moved into the home. 

The transition was incredibly tough for Lee, who came to Canada from the Philippines in the late 1980s, as she suddenly found herself unable to see her family in person due to stringent public health measures.

“We couldn’t visit and they hadn’t started doing video sessions yet because everything was crazy. She probably thought we had abandoned her. After two months, we had a video call and she was so depressed and wouldn’t really acknowledge us,” Bontogon said.  

“It was really tough. The personal support workers said she was depressed and they were trying to explain over and over about what was going on and how people were sick,” Bontogon said, adding that Lee and her roommate were the first residents in the home to test positive for the disease. 

Lee also lost friends to the virus that swept through so many long-term care homes throughout Ontario. 

“Every time I’d visit there was a little crew of Filipino ladies and out of all of them, my Lola is the only one left.”

Bontogon said that fortunately, Lee’s case never took a turn for the worst and she never had to be hospitalized. 

“She was in and out of the hospital prior to moving into the home and she was so scared of hospitals that she would cry. Thankfully her symptoms weren’t too bad. She had a mild cough and a high fever.”

Bontogon says that although she and her mother have been able to visit Lee more often since restrictions have been relaxed, the rules against hugging are difficult for everyone.

“There’s no touching or affection and she needs that.”

The rules, however, didn’t stop Bontogon and her family from going all out and throwing Lee a big birthday bash on July 9.

“She loves being the centre of attention. We had a baseball-themed party for her 100th birthday because she’s a huge Blue Jays fan.” 

Bontogon says the nursing home made arrangements so that Lee’s family could sing Happy Birthday and have a cake. She also said the home decorated for the occasion. 

“The home has been really great. When she had [COVID], they were so transparent and told us everything. They were so amazing, I couldn’t be happier with the home we have chosen.” 

Bontogon said that she hopes sharing her grandmother’s birthday party will give other people hope.

“If a 102-year-old can survive, there’s hope,” she says.

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