Hey, Jennie Stejna, this Bud’s for you!
The 103-year-old Massachusetts woman came back from the brink of death after battling the coronavirus — and celebrated with an ice cold Bud Light.
“She’s feisty and tenacious,” her grandson, Dave Stejna of Easton, tells The Post. “She is legendary in so many different ways. She speaks her mind and doesn’t put up with anything.”
That includes the global pandemic which has been particularly devastating for the world’s senior citizen population. Stejna, an avid Red Sox fan who lives in the Life Care Center of Wilbraham, became both first person to contract the deadly virus in the facility and the first there to beat it. About three weeks ago, her health ordeal began with a low-grade fever, and she was moved to a separate COVID-19 unit, fighting the disease for about 20 days.
“We were hopeful but then things started to trend downward so we were bracing for the worst. She lost her appetite and getting her to stay hydrated was challenging,” says David, 49, of his grandmother who he says uses a wheelchair and is legally blind but still has a very sharp mind.
“She kind of didn’t accept what was going on. She kept complaining that she couldn’t listen to Red Sox games [on her transistor radio].”
Still, as her condition worsened, Jennie’s family called to say their final goodbyes. Her granddaughter’s husband Adam Gunn asked her if she was ready to go to heaven and she replied, “Hell yes.”
On May 3, David said goodbye and told her he loved her.
The next day, the family was stunned to learn that their tough-as-nails matriarch, who is nicknamed “The Sheriff” because of her exacting manner, had not only pulled through but did so with gusto.
She woke up and proclaimed, “I’m not sick.” Annoyed at the crowd of people in her room, she told them to “get the hell out of here,” according to Dave.
Marking the occasion with a cold beer was fitting for the Polish-American granny. Hailing from near Springfield in Western, Mass., she toiled in the area’s mills and lived there with her husband of 54 years, Teddy, until his death in 1992. Her grandchildren recall her hosting summer cookouts, where she would take the kids for ice cream, stopping off at the liquor store to pick up some suds.
“She would say, ‘You gotta have a cold beer when it’s hot out during the summer time,’ ” David says. “Later in the day she would say, “I think I’m gonna split a beer.’ She would never say ‘I am going to have one’. She’d sip about two and would do it sort of on the down low.”
So once Stejna got the official corona clearance on May 13, both the staff and her family were eager to celebrate. A nurse bought a six pack and gave her a well earned brew.
“She put it to her lips and said, “Ooh, that’s cold. It’s good when it’s cold,’ ” David says.
Stejna who has two children, three grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren was once an avid bingo player, worked into her 80s and David says, “could run circles around anyone.” But even before her battle with COVID-19, she would often asked him why she is still alive.
“Not to get all existential but I would tell her that ‘God has a purpose for you and he’s not done with you yet’. As she pulled through this, I think we might have found her purpose. And that is to give people a glimmer of hope. There’s a perception that this disease is a scarlet mark and if you get it, it’s over.”
David has high praise for the home’s director Dennis Lopata.
“Dennis is an absolute gem and did everything in his power to make sure she had the best care. I can’t say enough about him. They’ve had over 30 cases in the facility, so they wanted to do something special for my grandmother. It was very heartfelt,” says David adding “Though if anyone could beat it, she can. She has this tenacity for life to still keep going. It astounds me. Somehow, she’s not a quitter. I’m searching for meaning, too.”
And perhaps Bud Light has found their newest pitch woman.