Woman knew she'd beaten MERS when doctors stopped using biohazard suits

77-year-old MERS survivor speaks to CNN
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77-year-old MERS survivor speaks to CNN 01:47

Story highlights

  • Kim Bok-soon may have been infected when she was at the same hospital as "Patient Zero"
  • She credits prayer and God's help for recovery from syndrome that has high death rate

Seoul, South Korea (CNN)She's 77 and has chronic asthma. But Kim Bok-soon has also survived MERS, the mysterious virus that's spreading in South Korea and putting thousands in quarantine.

    It can kill up to a third of people infected, but somehow Kim survived.
    She had an asthmatic episode and was treated at St. Mary's Hospital in Pyeongtaek between May 4 and May 16. South Korea's "Patient Zero," the man who brought MERS from the Middle East, was at the same hospital at the same time, as the virus started to spread.
    Kim was sent home with a week's worth of medication. When her condition didn't improve, she went back to St Mary's. Again, doctors sent her home but her symptoms got worse.
    What you need to know about MERS
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    What you need to know about MERS 01:55
    "I felt cold. I was sweating. I coughed all night. I wet my pants because I was coughing so hard," she said. "I thought, 'This is not good.' So I went back to St. Mary's hospital. But they were closed."
    The hospital had been shut down because dozens of people there had been infected with MERS: patients like Kim, medical staff and visitors. At least 37 cases of MERS have been linked to that initial outbreak.
    Kim checked into another nearby hospital. By then, South Korean authorities had been shocked into action. The doctors attending to her wore full biohazard suits.
    "They came in covered from head to toe and took blood samples and other things," she said.
    The tests showed Kim had MERS and she was transferred to Seoul University Hospital.
    Still Kim, a devout Christian, said she wasn't scared. She continued to pray and rely on God's help as well as medical intervention.
    The medical staff continued to treat her, so swathed in protective gear that Kim couldn't see their faces properly.
    She guessed she had beaten MERS the day they came into her room without the white suits.
    "They ran into my room, not even wearing doctors' gowns, and told me, 'You will be going back to general ward!'
    "I was so happy," she said. "All the doctors and nurses were there in the hallway. They all applauded."
    She was sent home the next day. "I felt like I could fly."