The nurses at Fox Run in Orchard Park told Mary Catalino they had a surprise for her.
She thought it was just a little trip to the balcony to get some fresh air – the first time she had been outside in two weeks since she fell in her apartment in the independent living section of Fox Run.
"I would go every day," said Catalino's daughter, Mary Guishard said. "Now all of a sudden: vrrp," she said, her approximation of the sound of everything shutting down because of Covid-19, including all visits to nursing home facilities in New York State.
In those weeks since, the nurses at Fox Run have gone out of the way to help her 88-year-old mother feel comfortable and connected through phone calls and FaceTime sessions, Guishard said.
Catalino was a new patient in the rehab section of Fox Run, but the nurses there already knew her well. Catalino's husband, Frank, was there during the last months of his life. Catalino was widowed in January. They had been married for 54 years.
One nurse in particular, Katie Zoyhofski, has been especially kind to Catalino. "She's like a fourth sibling," Guishard said.
On Thursday, Zoyhofski texted Guishard: Would she like to bring her kids to the parking lot? She could bring Catalino to the balcony as a surprise.
Guishard and her children jumped at the chance.
In a video posted to Facebook, Zoyhofski, wearing a blue cloth mask over her nose and mouth, wheels Catalino out to the balcony in a wheelchair. A breeze sweeps Catalino's hair away from her face.
"Oh, my goodness," Catalino said, her voice brimming with delight. "Look who's in the driveway! Oh, my goodness."
Down below in the parking lot are Guishard and her children, waving.
Zoyhofski asks: "Do you want to stand up?"
"Yeah!" Catalino said.
The balcony visit lifted the whole family's spirits, Guishard said. Her children even shared the moment with teachers on their video class the next day.
"FaceTime is a wonderful thing, but it was like the next best thing to going up and visiting her in person. I could make that connection in person," she said. "It was still safe. She knew we were still here and out there and waving and we could keep a safe social distance."
Guishard wanted to thank the staff at Fox Run for taking care of her mom during such extraordinary circumstances. Nursing homes have been especially vulnerable to Covid-19, and Guishard can only imagine stressful it must be for them all.
"I'm able to be home. They go to work," Guishard said. "They are heroes. They are our new family."