Love really does conquer all – even the health care system in Metro Vancouver.
Wolfram and Anita Gottschalk, the grandparents whose story went viral after they were left separated in different care facilities, have finally been reunited.
After months of waiting, Wolfram has finally been moved to the same facility as Anita at the residence at Morgan Heights.
In a statement sent to Daily Hive by their granddaughter, Ashley Bartyik, who fought to have them reunited, the Gottschalk family said the reunion was joyful – and tearful.
“The reunion saw tears of joy for all involved. They can now be under the same roof for their remaining years, and we couldn’t be more grateful,” said the family.
The Gottschalks thanked Fraser Health for the reunion, and the media, for helping to get their story heard.
“They also wish to thank everyone around the world that liked, shared, or discussed their story,” said the family.
“We thank you for your continued prayers and messages we have received.”
Tasleem Juma, Fraser Health’s senior consultant for public affairs, told Daily Hive, they were happy to have been able to reunite Wolfram and Anita.
“We care deeply about reuniting couples in long-term care as quickly as possible and work hard to do so,” said Juma.
Juma said in the last 18 months, Fraser Health reunited 100 couples.
‘Saddest photo ever taken’
The story of the Gottschalks went global, after Bartyik posted “the saddest photo I have ever taken” on Facebook, showing her grandparents crying on one of their visits.
Speaking at the time, Bartyik told Daily Hive her grandparents are a passionate couple, married for 62 years.
A bricklayer and a homemaker in their younger years, the couple moved to Canada from Germany soon after they got married, and were well known in the community.
Now 83, Wolfram has dementia, and Anita, 81, has mobility and heart issues. Despite that, she continued to look after him in their own home – until this year.
In January, Wolfram’s condition worsened and Fraser Health decided he needed to be placed in a nursing home to receive proper care.
Wolfram was placed temporarily at Yale Road Centre, a transitional facility where seniors who can’t get the care they need at home await permanent placement in a nursing home.
One month later, Anita decided to move to a care home too, and joined the waitlist, requesting that she and Wolfram be placed together somewhere.
Happy ending – but not for everyone
No suitable beds became available until July, when Anita finally got the call. She had a spot at Morgan Heights – but there was no room yet for Wolfram. Thinking she wouldn’t have to wait much longer for Wolfram to get a place, she moved in.
But months later, the family were still waiting – and still making a 40-minute trip taking Anita to visit Wolfram every other day, to make sure he didn’t forget her.
Fraser Health said it was doing everything it can to get the couple together, but the challenge was waiting for a bed to become available.
After the couple’s story was publicized in August by their granddaughter, the pair were moved closer together – but now thankfully they are finally back together.
While the Gottschalks’ story had a happy ending however, the family says many other loving elderly couples are still waiting to be reunited in the system.
“Although they are now reunited, the story isn’t over for other BC couples waiting to be together, and our family will continue to advocate for those families as well.”
According to Fraser Health, there are currently two couples awaiting reunification, because the facility they wish to go to is under renovation.