FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. — One of the hardest parts of the COVID-19 pandemic is the isolation and being completely separated from each other.
And while technology like video chatting is great, it doesn't make up for physically touching the people who you love. One family came up with a creative solution to rectify the isolation and they hope families will be inspired by their safe hug windows.
"This is when it gets exciting! She's going to be coming around the corner right toward us in just a moment," George Glass said as he was sitting at his wife's window.
The butterflies never wore off for him.
"Oh here she comes," he said.
He's just as excited to see his bride today as he was when she walked down the aisle 61 years ago.
"Oh you look pretty today! Look at you," he told her.
They just like being together, they always have.
George can't get close enough to Jan now that he's allowed to see her again.
The Hope Center in Fayetteville went into lockdown three months ago because of COVID-19 and for the first time in their 61 year marriage, George was forced to be apart from Jan.
"Just to sit beside her was gone. And for a good while, I felt an emptiness in my heart. It's like she had died, though I knew she hadn't. And just being forced to be away from her was really hard," he said.
Jan is suffering from dementia, and her daughter, Cindy Shinabarger said she just didn't understand when they would try and video call her.
Couple married for 61 years embrace each other again after daughter invents Safe Hug Window to combat pandemic isolation
"For my mom's condition, that just left her brokenhearted. I tried to window visit with her, and she didn't understand, she didn't know why I was behind the glass. She was crying, I was crying, and it was just such a hard thing," their daughter Shinabarger said.
George couldn't bear to see Jan so upset and had to stop calling altogether. Shinabarger just wanted to fix it - to see her parents smile again.
"I was working in our workroom, and I thought, I need to come up with some way to safely visit. There has to be a way," she said.
She used her background in aerospace engineering to come up with the Safe Hug Window. It's designed to slide in place of the screen at The Hope Center.
"These are from a blasting sandbox, so they're very durable, very safe. These are HEPA filters, up here, so there should be no chance of anything getting through," explained Shinabarger.
George has to put gloves on and slide his hands through the holes so he can hold her hands.
"He was able to feed her chocolate, and that was so great, he could feed her chocolate, they do that every visit," she said.
Their daughter said the light has come back into both of their eyes now that they can hold hands again.
"I'm just very thankful for it. I'm thankful that I have a daughter who cares about her mother and Jan and I's relationship that she went through the work to dream this and put it together," George said.
The Hope Center said they were thrilled about the design and know how much this means to their patients who really need that physical touch.
"It was priceless, and it was worth whatever we needed to do to make it happen," Kathy Rainwater-Roe of the Hope Center said.
Shinabarger is working on one more window for The Hope Center and she created an email address for anyone looking to make one. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.
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