Karl Waitschies and his wife, Donna, have lived 55 years of love and solidarity. But the conviviality ended when the coronavirus pandemic restricted visitors to the nursing home where Donna has lived for the past three years.
The couple have been separated for a year, according to NBC affiliate KUSA. Their only chance to visit was through a window outside the Belleview Heights Assisted Living and Memory Care facility in Colorado. Finally, on a Thursday in March, after a long and difficult year, the two got together.
Just days before the meeting, the Biden administration issued revised interior visitation guidelines, including the nursing home regulations, allowing guests inside to surrender, which they have been vaccinated or not.
The announcement united millions of Americans with their elderly loved ones, many of whom had not been in the same room together for over a year. Following the updated guidelines, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced that all long-term care facilities in the state will accept visitors. This was especially welcome news for people like Waitschies, whose wife suffers from Alzheimer’s. For him, every moment with her is precious.
“We know they won’t be with us for very long. People are sick,” he said. “They are elderly and we want to be with them to help them get through this stage.”
During the months they were apart, the Waitschies visited Donna through the window or on the phone almost three times a week, he told KUSA. Most of her days were filled with mixed emotions of sadness or anger, saying the experience was emotionally draining. But on the day of the reunion, Waitschies was happy and eager to see his wife.
“I can see her,” he said with a big smile.
A few minutes later, the moment he had waited so long had finally arrived. The two hugged in a big hug.
Still, the happiness he felt couldn’t stop Karl from noticing his wife’s deteriorating physical health, compared to what she was months ago, he said. When he last saw her she could still walk, now she is confined to a wheelchair. The visit was described as wonderful and difficult at the same time.
“I’m glad I finally got to see her, but it’s really hard,” he told KUSA.
Few words were exchanged during the visit, but Donna Waitshies held her husband’s hand most of the time, a non-verbal indication that the 55-year-old bond between the two is still present.