Parents whose children are receiving long-term care at the Blythedale Children's Hospital in New York are finally getting the chance to embrace after a months-long wait.
Marie Phanor burst into a rendition of "You Are My Sunshine" when she was finally able to embrace her daughter, Taylor, after four long months.
"It was exhilarating to see her and actually be able to physically be near her again," Phanor said. "Being away from her has been so hard, but we know it’s been just a relief to know that she was well taken care of."
Taylor, 18, is living with a traumatic brain injury after being hit by a car while on the way to school six and a half years ago. She's now receiving treatment at the the Blythedale Children's Hospital.
"She was going to catch her school bus, and the last thing I thought was that would be the last time I would see my child walk or talk," Phanor said. "It’s been hard, but thankfully she’s still here."
But like many of the children at the hospital, Taylor has a delicate immune system, and so to protect its young patients, Blythedale followed state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines by restricting visitors during the height of New York's coronavirus outbreak.
"They treat Taylor like she’s their own and it was such a relief, it took a lot of the stress off," Phanor said. "As a parent during this time, the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not your child is safe."
During the time visitors were restricted, families made do with video calls, but when they were finally able to reunite with their children in person, it was an emotional moment, said Dr. Scott Klein, the hospital's chief medical officer.
"We did everything we could to try to do virtual visits as much as possible and by phone, but it doesn’t compare to being in person with your child," Klein said. "So that’s really been nice for the families, the children and even us to be able to see."
Katherine Rivera gave her 4-year-old daughter, Maria, a big hug, marveling at how much she had grown over those 145 long days. Maria was born with a rare joint disorder that makes her small for her age, but her nurses and doctors have dubbed the "queen of sass" for her energy and warmth.
"We don’t call them nurses and doctors, we call them aunts and uncles," Rivera told CBS News of the hospital staff. "They are family to us, they are amazing. I wasn’t worried about her missing me, because she has enough love here."
Felicita Melendez came to visit her 3-year-old great-grandson, Abner, who was born prematurely and has spent his entire life in the hospital. Melendez said she was "so happy" to see him and had spent four months crying as she missed him. The family hopes Abner will eventually get to go home.
During the toughest moments of separation, Phanor said she thought about Taylor to get her through.
"Taylor's taught me perseverance, she's taught me patience and faith above all else. She's taught me endurance, which having an injured child, a child who is left in a debilitating situation from an accident, you will have to endure a lot more than you ever anticipated," Phanor said. "She's taught me that it will get better, it can better, it does get better."