TORONTO -- A woman who survived the novel coronavirus was met with a special surprise outside a long-term care home in Mississauga in celebration of her 102nd birthday.

Family and friends, all together for the first time in months, gathered outside Erin Mills Lodge Nursing Home on Thursday to cheer and express their love to Jovita Lee, who smiled and waved at her physically distant visitors.

“It was bitter sweet because, of course, we couldn’t get too close, we couldn’t hug her or touch her but it was just a relief to be able to see her,” Lee’s granddaughter Sarah Barnett told CTV News Toronto on Thursday.

“To see all of us together at once and to see us singing happy birthday to her, I think that really lifted her spirts and for the first time she was able to lift her head up higher and just waive to everyone.”

Lee’s fight against COVID-19 was not easy. Her family says that she and her roommate were the first two people in their long-term care home to get the disease.

Lee, who had been moved into the home only two weeks before the pandemic hit, had trouble eating and was fighting a high fever.

Despite the outbreak at the facility being over, her family says it still took a significant toll on her. Her granddaughter said Lee now needs to use a wheelchair, has trouble lifting her head and is very low energy.

Barnett describes her grandmother, who came from the Philippines to Canada in the 80s, as a fun-loving person who loves the Toronto Blue Jays, parties, dancing and being in the spotlight, and so Thursday’s surprise was the perfect one.

“She loved to dance, loved having parties. Every year, she wants a party so she could invite everyone and feed everyone,” Barnett said.


Barnett said her grandmother, who loves to be around family, had a tough few months and lost some friends at the long-term care home due to COVID-19 after 17 people died at the home.

Now, Barnett said she’s glad things are starting to look better.

“She was already in an unfamiliar place and then shortly after to not see her family at all for three months [was hard],” she said. “[Thursday] was the first time she had seen us all together since moving to the home and overcoming the virus.”