102-year-old woman reflects on living through 1918 flu pandemic and novel coronavirus

(DETROIT, Michigan) — The coronavirus pandemic may be forcing millions to adjust to stay-at-home orders, but for Orel Borgesca, this isn’t the first global health crisis she’s had to endure.

The soon to be 103-year-old was just a few months old when the deadly “Spanish Flu” outbreak engulfed the globe in 1918, infecting a third of world’s population and killing at least 50 million people. While she’s doesn’t remember the pandemic personally, Borgesca says she will never forget the vivid tales from relatives.

“My mother’s brother and his wife had no children and in the epidemic they let husbands stay with them like my dad … unfortunately my aunt caught the flu, and she died from it,” Borgeson said.

Now more than a century later, Borgenson carries those memories with her and is taking precautions to protect herself during the coronavirus health crisis. She’s self-quarantining at her Michigan home with daughter Bonnie to stay safe.

“I’ve been doing a lot of knitting, reading and playing Scrabble with my daughter,” Borgeson said. “I have strong faith, and I still believe God is in charge, and this is all going to come out alright.”

Borgeson said that other family members come by to visit through her living room window.

The centenarian turns 103 next Tuesday, so a few neighbors got together to visit Borgeson from a safe distance and celebrate with “Happy Birthday” signs and decorations for her yard.

Borgenson said that her birthday wish is “for this [pandemic] to be over.”

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