FORT DODGE, Iowa — The coronavirus vaccine has been one of the key factors in allowing families to reunite after months of being apart.
That rings true for Carmella Korte and her grandfather, Dean Hiracheta.
Carmella and her mother drove from Las Vegas to Fort Dodge to surprise Hiracheta after he received the vaccine.
"It was a two-day drive and we surprised him and he was pretty shocked to see us," Carmella told Local 5.
Hiracheta hardly recognized his granddaughter when they arrived at his home earlier this week.
"I said, 'Oh, wow, she's tall!'" he said. "But it was so great to see her and to finally spend time with her."
Carmella and her grandfather have stayed in touch throughout the last year, sending letters and talking on the phone. She usually takes a yearly trip to Iowa to see her family, but that wasn't a possibility last year.
"We had to social distance, you know, stay apart because of the virus," Carmella said.
The last year has been lonely for Hiracheta.
"You had to stay inside because of the virus, and that was hard," he said.
Carmella, her mom, and Hiracheta have been staying busy during their visit in Fort Dodge, visiting family members at the town's cemetery.
"All in all, I'm glad that they're here," Hiracheta said. "Wish they didn't have to leave."
Hiracheta said he is planning to make a trip to Las Vegas soon.