As the threat of the novel coronavirus approached the U.S. earlier this year, Tasha Wheeler, a nurse anesthetist at a veterans' medical center in Houston, made the difficult decision to send her 19-month old son Harper to live with her mom in Louisiana.
On Wednesday night, after seven weeks of separation and long, exhausting shifts while living on her own, Wheeler, a single mom, was reunited with Harper.
"I don't think any of the photos truly capture how I felt in that moment," Wheeler told "Good Morning America" of the reunion. "As I held my son tight I could see all the physical changes -- his hair is longer, he's taller, he feels heavier and I can go on and on."
"As happy as I am, I'm still heartbroken because I'll never get those seven weeks back," she added.
Wheeler is one of the countless heath care workers across the U.S. who has had to isolate from family members in order to avoid the risk of spreading coronavirus. As a nurse anesthetist who works with elderly patients, Wheeler considered herself especially vulnerable to being exposed to COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
"It was still uncharted territory about what to expect -- how many patients we'd see, what kind of equipment we would have," she said. "And I didn't want my mom to come live with me in Houston because she's elderly."
Wheeler's mom lives only about three hours away from her in Lafayette, Louisiana, but she said it felt like a world away during the seven weeks she had to rely just on FaceTime to see her mom and son.
"I have a 15-minute coffee break in the morning where I'd call them and then again at lunchtime and before bed," she said, adding of Harper, "I missed his smile and the bedtime hug and kisses. He's so sweet and affectionate."
Wheeler marked her first Easter away from her mom this year, but they will be able to celebrate Mother's Day together. Wheeler's mom plans to stay with her daughter in Houston for a few weeks to continue watching Harper as her daughter continues to work on the front lines.
"We have really good PPE for me to protect myself and I take precautions when I get home, like taking off my work clothes and showering," said Wheeler, adding that her hospital has also not seen a surge of COVID-19 cases. "And I've tested negative for COVID-19."
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The past seven weeks gave Harper and his grandmother time to bond, according to Wheeler.
Before he left his grandmother's house in Lafayette, he was given a Sesame Street-themed goodbye parade from friends and family.
"I'm an only child so this is her only grandchild," said Wheeler. "It was just a lot of joy for her to really bond and take care of him alone."