‘It was better than Christmas,’ Mo. veteran reunited with wife after 4 months

Veteran Terry Nelson holds his wife Trudy's hand during a visit arranged by his caretakers at...
Veteran Terry Nelson holds his wife Trudy's hand during a visit arranged by his caretakers at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center.(John J. Pershing VA Medical Center)
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 2:10 PM CST
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POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. (KFVS) - It had been more than 4 months since this Army veteran had been able to hold his wife’s hand and tell her he loved her, but with help from his caretakers, his wish became reality.

According to a release from the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center, Terry Nelson is a temporary resident in its Community Living Center in Poplar Bluff. His wife, Trudy, was recovering from a fracture at a nursing home in Miner, more than 50 miles away.

The medical center said the Nelsons kept in touch through FaceTime calls when their daughter visited, but it wasn’t the same. Worse, during a recent call, Nelson noticed something wrong. He said Trudy couldn’t form words and was slumped over in her chair.

“Last Friday, I wouldn’t have given her until the next morning,” he recalled. “She was talking out of her head and her neck was bent over.”

He was worried, knowing there wasn’t much he could do with the miles between them.

“I prayed for her,” he said, “… and God answers prayers.”

The next morning, Trudy was alert, talking, and was able to hold her head up.

In the meantime, Samantha Rehkop, a recreation therapist at the VA medical center, received a message from the couple’s daughter wondering if there was a way to somehow get Nelson there.

“She told me [her mother] wasn’t doing so well and that she wanted to know if we could figure out how to get him over there,” Rehkop said.

Rehkop went to her supervisor and the request went up the chain of command. In a matter of hours, a plan had been approved and put into place.

“We got it figured out,” Rehkop said. “We started on Monday, and I had the go-ahead on Tuesday morning.”

Within a couple of days, Nelson got on a VA bus with Rehkop and VA nurse assistant Dee Edelman and made the trip to Miner.

“I think she’ll be surprised and happy,” he said.

At the nursing home, the pair were finally reunited. For Nelson, it was everything he hoped it would be.

“It was a great visit, and she was surprised,” he said afterward. “I was about to cry.”

He said he was grateful to his VA caretakers for making it happen.

“Everyone is great, and they treat us like somebody. A lot of people have worked hard to make this happen,” he said, “and to everyone who worked on it for me … it was better than Christmas.”