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Beating COVID-19 is a cause for celebration at any age. When you are nearing 91, however, conquering the deadly viral infection is nothing short of amazing.

But then Don Garling is an amazing man. When he celebrates his birthday later this month, he can add COVID-19 survivor to his list of lifetime accomplishments.

Garling has survived a lot in his life. 

The 90-year-old Mont Alto resident overcame a fight with colon cancer more than a decade ago. He is constantly managing diabetes and suffered a heart attack last year. 

Beating COVID-19
Don Garling, 90, of Mont Alto, Pa., is surrounded by caregivers, hospital staff and two members of the Mont Alto Ambulance squad upon his discharge from WellSpan Waynesboro Hospital Thursday. (Phpoto courtesy WellSpan Health)

Soon he hopes to add conquering COVID-19 to that list. 

Garling was discharged from WellSpan Waynesboro Hospital Thursday as his caregivers and hospital staff Celebrated his almost-complete recovery. 

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“What Mr. Garling has overcome so far is nothing short of amazing,” said WellSpan’s Sherri Stahl. “This is one of those moments during our COVID-19 journey at WellSpan Waynesboro Hospital where we can pause for a minute and celebrate a huge, positive step forward for one of our patients.”


Beating COVID-19, Don Garling’s story

Garling was admitted to WellSpan Waynesboro Hospital last Sunday, May 3, and was immediately tested for COVID-19. That evening the test came back positive.

Teams at the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit kept a watchful eye on him around the clock. Soon he was showing signs of recovery. 

Garling did not need a ventilator. 

“It was really good. Everyone went above and beyond to help me,” said Garling, a former heavy equipment operator who will turn 91 on May 28. “You just have to take things one step at a time, one day at a time.”

According to Garling’s daughter, Donna Henderson, her father began to develop symptoms of COVID-19 around May 1.. What appeared to be a head cold soon developed into Garling feeling sweaty and clammy on Sunday morning. Still, the family wasn’t certain it was COVID-19 since Garling was also showing symptoms of a urinary tract infection. 

‘A Rock of Gibraltar’

The family patriarch overcoming COVID-19 is no surprise to Garling’s family.

Henderson said she lost a sister, Teresa, in a car crash in April 2009 and her mother passed away the following month. She credits her father for always leading the family through tough times.

Around the same time as the pair of family deaths, Garling was overcoming colon cancer. 

“He’s the Rock of Gibraltar for all of us,” Henderson said. “I always tell him that he is like a cat with nine lives.”

Henderson added that her father missed being at his home the most during his 5-day stay in the hospital.

“I’m just so thankful that I came out of this the way that I did. The nurses were wonderful,” Garling said. 

Garling will self-quarantine at home as he continues to gain strength and recover from the disease.

“I am just happy to promote something that may help someone else,” Garling said. 

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