How Horizon health care providers ensured the connection between a father and son remained strong, despite visitor restrictions 

Fred Caldwell’s phone rings.

He’s in one of his finest dress shirts, his hair recently trimmed.

His nurses wheel the 95-year-old patient at Horizon’s The Moncton Hospital to his window to get a better view.

It isn’t just the light from the third-floor window that brings life to Fred’s face; it’s the people on the other end of line – and outside his window – that really make him glow from within.

His son Larry and his wife Pam Richardson are standing outside in front of the hospital’s main entrance, near the flag poles. Fred’s quick to order them to back up a bit so he and those inside his room can see them better.

He gives them a big wave and blows a kiss, then beckons for his Tim Hortons’ cup to propose a “Cheers” – a sign that he’s being well taken care of.  

“The best in the land,” he says of his cup of joe. “Good for the soul.”

Talking to them is secondary – knowing they’re present comes first.

“Talk away, buddy,” he tells Larry, distracted by the affection and fuss of his nursing team (all female, including the Communications staff there to capture this moment). “I got more than I can handle.”

“You’re both looking well,” he said. “What are you going to do to pass the time this afternoon? Did Larry get his bicycle yet?”

Photo d'un patient avec des visiteurs venant à la fenêtre de son lit d'hôpital
Photo d'un patient avec des visiteurs venant à la fenêtre de son lit d'hôpital


Visitor restrictions have been put in place at all Horizon facilities to curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and help protect the health and safety of patients like Fred and his care team.

The visitor restrictions mean Fred’s only son, Larry, hasn’t been able to visit since March 16.

Before that, Larry and Pam visited Fred every day since he was admitted on Valentine’s Day with congestive heart failure. He’s also battled water in his lungs and had difficulty breathing.

He’s doing well, Larry said, but his care providers would like his appetite to return before discharging him.

“But his spirit’s strong,” said Larry.

Their connection remains strong, too.

On the day the visitor restrictions were announced, Larry hooked up a phone service for Fred, despite the fact he can’t hear all that well. They talk four or five times a day – first thing after Fred wakes up at 8:30 a.m., then last thing at night, after 9 p.m.

And while their phone chats were good, there was something even more special in the works.


At 95 and ¾ (his birthday is Oct. 18), Fred is extremely alert.  

He’s very aware of COVID-19 and the changes that have been made at the hospital. He knows why his team wear masks when they’re providing care, why they can’t shake hands, and why people can’t “congregate” in Tim Hortons anymore.

He’s musical; his fingers show his years of picking at the guitar and playing the mouth organ, piano, and violin. He’s noble, too – and that’s not just because Noble is actually his middle name.

But more than anything, he’s a proud father who adores his son.

One day, he missed him so much, he started to cry. Even now, he holds back tears when talking about his only child.

“Well, naturally, I guess I do,” he responds, when asked if he misses his only son. “Don’t get me to start crying. Don’t talk anymore about Larry.”

That’s when Lori Vrensen, the nursing unit clerk of 3600 (Long-Term Care) and Fred’s makeshift barber and errand-runner, had the idea to make their phone chats even more memorable: they’d make a sign to hang up in his window for the next time Larry and Pam visited.

“It made him smile,” said Lori.  

One Sunday afternoon, Larry and Pam told Lori they were coming to visit and wave to Fred from outside the hospital. They were told where to stand, and the surprise awaited them – the sign in his window, which read, “I love you both and miss you.” Signed with a heart and an XOXOXO.

“And all the nurses were in the window,” said Pam. “It was really emotional.”

“What struck us the most was just all the care around it,” she added. “The nurses – they were just all so supportive. Went to the trouble. And I know they’re busy because not only are they not letting in visitors, but I’m sure the staffing is challenging at this point. They were all there, they all showed up, they were all jubilant. It was really moving.”

Fred loves his nursing team, too, but he’d still like to go home to be able to see Larry in person every day.

“I love you so,” sings Fred. “I can’t wait to see you again.”