Family celebrates parents’ 63rd anniversary at nursing home

HARLINGEN — Amalia Villarreal’s love for her husband helped her survive a long, hard bout with the coronavirus, her daughter believes.

On Tuesday, Maria Villarreal and her family gathered outside their window at the Windsor Atrium nursing home to celebrate Efrain and Amalia Villarreal’s 63rd wedding anniversary.

From as far as Houston and Dallas, her cousins joined her and brother Homer Villarreal as they loaded up about eight cars to stage a family parade outside the nursing home.

“I think it’s their love for each other and faith in God that keep them together,” Maria Villarreal, 61, a retired teacher, said. “It’s a miracle she survived and it’s a miracle he didn’t contract the virus.”


Since the nursing home closed to visitors on March 13, Maria Villarreal hasn’t seen her parents.

For three months, a cell phone’s images and glimpses through a window have taken her as close as she’s come to them.

“We haven’t seen our parents except for the window visits and FaceTime since the middle of March,” she said.

“My parents are both depressed,” she said. “They see us through the window and they can’t understand why we can’t come in.”

Outbreak’s end

On April 6, her 88th birthday, Amalia Villarreal tested positive for COVID-19 at the nursing home, where an outbreak had led about 61 residents and 39 employees to contract the virus, whose complications led 16 others to die.

Now, the nursing home has cleared its last COVID-19 resident’s case, Brooke Ladner, parent company Regency Healthcare’s senior vice president for business development, stated.

“We are very excited to confirm there are currently no active patient cases inside Windsor Atrium,” she stated. “We would like to thank our Windsor Atrium families for their support and understanding during these difficult times.”

Long, hard struggle

After she tested positive, Amalia Villarreal was isolated from her husband, who tested negative for the virus, their daughter said.

Two days later, a doctor didn’t think her mother would live through the night, Maria Villarreal said.

During the next month, Amalia Villarreal was hospitalized three times.

Amalia Villarreal, once a heavy smoker who stopped after she entered the nursing home four years ago, suffered medical complications including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

“The ER doctor called us and said she wouldn’t make it to the morning,” Maria Villarreal said. “She was really sick, short of breath, very weak — she wasn’t eating — and her blood pressure dropped.”

Soon, she was back in the hospital, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia, a urinary tract infection and blood clot in her left leg.

After she suffered her pneumonia relapse, she was hospitalized again.

“We almost lost her two times,” her daughter said.

Together again

About two weeks ago, Amalia Villarreal was taken out of the nursing home’s so-called COVID room after she recovered.

After 14 weeks, she was reunited with her husband.

“This separation has been really hard on them because they’re always together,” Maria Villarreal said.