A dementia sufferer who survived a Nazi assassination attempt, a plane crash and breast cancer, has successfully beaten coronavirus at the age of 99.
Joy Andrew miraculously recovered from Covid-19 at Minster Grange care home in York, North Yorks, where more than 30 residents are thought to have died.
Daughter Michele Andrew said staff called her on May 30 to say her mum “was at the end of life” with “fluctuating” oxygen levels and wasn’t eating or drinking – before she suddenly started to recover.
But Joy is no stranger to close calls, having faced death and lived to tell about it on numerous occasions over the years.
“My mother survived an assassination attempt in post war Germany by her chauffeur, later identified as a Nazi, she survived a crash landing in the desert as one of BOAC’s first air hostesses, and was rescued by Bedouins, and she survived breast cancer,” explained Michele.
“She certainly wasn’t going to let coronavirus defeat her.”
The former WAAF sergeant had served in the Operations’ Room at Bomber Command based at Pocklington and Melbourne during the war.
Later, Joy joined The British Army of The Rhine and was posted to Dusseldorf, where she lodged with an elderly couple with whom she became very friendly, but who had a daughter who was a Nazi.
“My mother was allocated her own driver to take her wherever she wanted to go,” Michele said. “This included a trip to Berlin, where she wandered alone in the remains of the Reichstag.
“She also went to the Nuremberg Trials. Because my mother’s family is Jewish, this was obviously important to her.
“Quite probably, the couple’s daughter informed Joy’s driver that she was an easy target. One day, the driver picked her up and, en route to the destination, deliberately crashed the car in an attempt to kill her.
“She still bears the scar on her face from the assassination attempt. The driver was arrested and turned out to be a Nazi.”
Michele said her mum joined BOAC after the war as “one of the first air hostesses and flew the Africa route”.
“One day the pilot made a dreadful mistake and flew off course, running out of fuel.
“The plane, a comet, crashed in Libya and broke upon impact. The crew survived but one passenger died. They were all stranded in the desert and rescued by bedouins.”
In the 1950s, Joy married husband David Andrew, a Squadron Leader in the RAF, and in 1963 the couple adopted Michele.
In the 1970s Joy defeated breast cancer and before David sadly succumbed to cancer himself in 2013.
Joy moved up from St Albans into the home in Haxby Road near her daughter in the same year and tested positive for coronavirus on May 16 – with 20 residents understood to have died in the first week of that month.
Michele praised one of her mum’s carers who allegedly returned to work after having been admitted to intensive care at York Hospital with the virus.
“I admire her bravery,” she said.
Michele said that on Joy’s unit of eight residents, only three others remained.
“These are people I knew well, saw every week and liked. After six and a half years of visiting my mother there, Minster Grange has become a second home. I’m shocked and distressed by the number of residents who have died.
“This makes Joy’s Lazarus-like survival even more remarkable. Unfortunately, my mother’s dementia prevents her from recognising this achievement.”
Instead, it is down to Joy’s two nieces, four great nephews and nieces and thirteen great, great nephews and nieces to celebrate her achievement.
“Hopefully it’s a boost for the staff at Minster Grange too, as at times it must feel like working in a war zone,” continued Michele.
“I am grateful for the part they played in this extraordinary recovery.”
She said that with Joy due to celebrate her 100th birthday on November 22, there were plans to celebrate ‘big-time’, adding: “I’d like to throw a party for the residents and staff, if distancing measures allow. Her centenary would mark another remarkable achievement.”
Paul Brookfield, regional director of Maria Mallaband Care Group, with owns the home, described Joy as “amazing”.
He said “health and wellbeing of all our wonderful residents and fabulous staff is our utmost priority”.
He declined to confirm how many residents at the home had died of the virus or whether a staff member had been taken to intensive care before returning to work.