FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) -- A year after the World Health Organization declared the pandemic a global health emergency, Hoosiers living in long-term care facilities can get what many of them have craved for all these months -- a hug.
"There she is!" Ed Reef exclaimed.
Even though he and his wife live 10 minutes away, Ed is visiting his sister-in-law Vicki Steckbeck for the first time in a year.
"It's been a while! It certainly has."
The pandemic has kept them apart.
And Friday was not only the first time they've seen each other, it also marked Vicki's first hug in all this time.
"When he came around the corner and you saw him and you got a hug, what was that like?" She gave a thumbs up.
"She's looking good. The last time I saw her I was hauling her off to an emergency room, and she didn't look too good back then," Ed said.
Overcome with emotion, Vicki said it's been frustrating only being able to talk on the phone about supplies she's needed or financial issues, so she's hopeful the pandemic continues to ease.
"If we could communicate more one on one," Vicki said.
Ed agrees, saying with Vicki's low voice and his not so great hearing, talking on the phone was a challenge.
"It's been difficult, especially since I'm trying to take care of her finances and knowing what she wants. Sometimes trying to figure them out, which I had a real fun time doing because we couldn't communicate back and forth too much, trying to find out what needs to be paid when, what bills are coming out," he said.
He says he'll be visiting more often now that he, his wife, and Vicki have been vaccinated.
A Heritage Park administrator says the state health department allowing residents to receive hugs is a welcome milestone.
"We've been able to have people come in but they had to maintain that six foot distance and not have that touch. But touch is so important, that therapeutic touch, letting one another know that you love each other," Jane King said.
If you'd like to visit and hug a loved one, you should call ahead to schedule an appointment with the care facility.