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World War II vet beats COVID-19 in time to turn 104

World War II veteran and COVID-19 survivor Major Wooten holds a celebratory milkshake on his 104th birthday Thursday.
(Holly Wooten McDonald)

An Alabama man who spent World War II repairing bomb-damaged trains in France recovered from a fight with COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday Thursday.

Major Wooten was physically drained and a little fuzzy mentally after battling the coronavirus but appears to be on the mend, granddaughter Holley Wooten McDonald said.

“I’m just thankful that they were able to treat him so quickly and we were able to get him tested,” said McDonald, adding: “It’s amazing that a 104-year-old survived COVID.”

Madison Hospital shared video of Wooten wearing a mask and waving while workers sang “Happy birthday, dear Pop Pop” as he was discharged in a wheelchair decorated with balloons Tuesday, two days before his actual birthday.

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McDonald said her grandfather, who served as a private first class in the Army before going on to a postwar career with U.S. Steel in Birmingham, tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 23 after her mother — his daughter — got the illness.

He received an infusion of the newly approved monoclonal antibody therapy bamlanivimab but was physically drained the next day and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance the day before Thanksgiving, she said.

The oldest Americans — people who are 100 or older — are among the most vulnerable in the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t know if that medicine just started working … but within 24 hours he was better,” she said. Wooten’s blood-oxygen levels are good now and his lungs are “clear as a bell,” McDonald said.

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She said her mother recovered from COVID-19, and so did a sister who developed the illness and had to spend a week on a ventilator.

The brush with COVID-19 was Wooten’s second major health scare this year.

In the spring, he was hospitalized with serious heart problems and recovered, McDonald said. Wooten, a big University of Alabama football fan, received a video phone call from Alabama coach Nick Saban after that scare got attention on the local news, she said.

“He was on Cloud 9 after that,” she said.

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For Wooten’s 104th birthday, a company erected a yard display that included the Alabama athletics logo, a cake, candles and a patriotic hat.


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