HOLLYWOOD, Md. – Timothy Frink sits outside a window at the Chesapeake Shores Nursing Center. On the other side of the window is his 40-year-old step-daughter Katie Buonviri, a resident of the facility.
Frink said COVID-19 restrictions on visitation have been difficult. “I knew it was going to impact our lives severely on March 10 when we got a call. They said ‘We are locking down the facility and there will be no more visits.’ I didn’t expect that.”
Katie is paralyzed on her right side and her speech abilities are severely impaired. “On the one hand, I was thankful they were so careful and cautious and it saved the facility great harm from people getting sick and dying. It’s been hard for us, but really hard for Katie.”
Visiting Through Glass
For a time the nursing home’s chaplain used his phone to allow family members to FaceTime Katie. Unfortunately, the facility laid the chaplain off due to COVID-19 budget cuts. Frink said that’s when Katie’s father discovered he could go up to the window and visit with her through the glass. Both her dad and step-dad have continued to visit her at the window. (Katie’s mother, Molly, died two years ago.)
The facility recently resumed outdoor in-person visits. However, masks and social distance are required. Frink said it was impossible to understand Katie through a mask, so the window visits work best for her family. “The benefits are that she can come right up to the glass and I can see her mouth and read her lips. We like that better.”
Katie’s world changed forever when she was just six years old. A car accident on Christmas Eve nearly took her life but left her partially paralyzed with impaired speech. However, that didn’t stop Katie. Thanks to the support of her late mother, Molly Frink, Katie was able to graduate high school and even get a job. She was active in her church and enjoyed creating intricate cross-stitch designs.
The accident also left Katie with seizures. Years of seizures began to have an affect on her cognitive ability. She developed trauma-induced dementia, the same problem faced by many pro athletes after years of head traumas. Katie began to lose her independence but not her spirit.
Frink said Katie was well-known for writing encouraging notes to people in their church and community. “So here you are going through a struggle and you get this note from this young girl who has gone through so many struggles.” Katie loved to write and filled multiple journals over the years.
Her friend, Niki Baker, discovered the journals and compiled the inspirational writings into a book called, Chin Up! Through Adversity, Hope Lives.
Katie’s devoted mother, Molly Frink, was diagnosed with terminal cancer two years ago. Timothy Frink said that due to Katie’s declining condition, the family made the difficult choice to place her in the nursing facility this January. “I want to sing the praises of Chesapeake. Wonderful staff, caring group of people. Everybody seems to love her and has taken care of her.”
He said Katie is still inspiring other. “I asked her, ‘Are you still writing notes to your new friends?’ She nods her head.
Frink said he’s finishing up a book of his own, one about his late wife, Molly called Molly’s Amazing Grace. He looks forward to visiting with Katie in person again.