Karl Waitschies and his wife, Donna, have enjoyed 55 years of love and togetherness. But the togetherness came to a halt when the coronavirus pandemic restricted visitors from the nursing home where Donna has lived for the last three years.
For a year, the couple has been separated, according to NBC affiliate KUSA. Their only chance at a visit was through a windowpane outside of the Belleview Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care facility in Colorado. Finally, one Thursday in March, after a long and difficult year, the two were reunited.
Just a few days before the reunion, the Biden administration released revised guidelines on indoor visits, including regulations on nursing homes, allowing guests inside to visit whether they had been vaccinated or not.
The announcement united millions of Americans with their elderly loved ones, many of whom hadn't been in the same room together in over a year. Following the updated guidance, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced that all long-term care facilities in the state would be accepting visitors. This news was particularly welcome for people like Waitschies, whose wife suffers from Alzheimer's. For him, each moment with her is precious.
"We know they won’t be with us much longer. People are ill," he said. "They’re elderly, and we want to be with them to help them through this stage."
During the months they were separated, Waitschies would visit with Donna through the window or over the phone nearly three times a week, he told KUSA. Most of his days were filled with mixed emotions of sadness or anger, saying that the experience was emotionally exhausting. But on the day of the reunion, Waitschies was happy and eager to see his wife.
"I get to see her," he said with a big grin.
Minutes later, the moment he had waited so long for had finally come. The two embraced in a big hug.
Still, the happiness he felt could not keep Karl from noticing the deterioration of his wife's physical health, compared to what it was months ago, he said. When he last saw her, she could still manage to walk, now she's confined to a wheelchair. The visit was described as wonderful and difficult all in one.
"I’m glad I finally got to see her, but it’s just really hard," he told KUSA.
Not many words were exchanged during the visit, but Donna Waitshies held her husband's hand nearly the entire time, a non-verbal indication that the 55-year connection between the two is ever-present.