The Vallo family donated tablets to UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center recently. Back, from left, are security guards Matthew Marquez and Troy Baldonado. Middle from left, are Heidi Roibal, her parents Henry and Karin Vallo, patient care tech Kristen Fife, charge nurses Brandy Streed and Rhiannon Lux, and SRMC President and CEO Jamie Silva-Steele. Roibal’s children are in the front. Courtesy of UNM Health Sciences Center.

It started just before Thanksgiving, when Henry Vallo and his wife, Karin, tested positive for COVID-19.
Karin quickly recovered, but Henry’s oxygen levels plummeted and he was admitted to UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center. Soon, the 79-year-old was on a ventilator.
Due to the hospital’s no-visitor policy, Henry’s wife and children couldn’t be with him. But they could see and speak to him, thanks to the ICU nurses, who used their own iPhones to connect the family.
“Even when he was intubated and in a drug-induced coma, we knew he could hear us,” Karin said. “The nurses were kind enough to use their own iPhones to communicate with us. That was well beyond what they were paid to do.”
Henry spent 54 days in the hospital, with nine on a ventilator, and is now recovering at home. His family raised money through GoFundMe for computer tablets for the hospital so patients can stay connected with loved ones.
The online fundraiser garnered more than $3,000, and Computer Corner, the local business supplying the tablets, committed to matching it. Twenty-four Samsung Galaxies were presented to SRMC Feb. 27.
“We are humbled and grateful to the Vallo family and Computer Corner for this very generous gift to the organization,” said Jamie Silva-Steele, SRMC president and CEO. “We were able to secure devices earlier in the pandemic to help patients communicate with their families, but the most recent surge proved that we did not have enough on hand to meet extreme patient volumes. This donation will ensure all inpatients will have this capability moving forward.”
The Vallos, married for 54 years, have three children, 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. Daughter Heidi Roibal spearheaded the GoFundMe campaign.
Her father, a retired contractor and acclaimed silversmith, is an Acoma Pueblo tribal member — and the family’s patriarch.
“A lot of our culture comes through oral storytelling,” she said. “There was a missing piece when he was hospitalized.”
Henry could take calls on his flip-phone at fist. But he misplaced a hearing aid when he went to the ICU, and the entire unit had one iPad.
“There were so many issues with just being able to communicate, so when one of the nurses offered to do a Zoom, it was a godsend,” Roibal said.
Via Zoom, relatives played videos for Henry as he recovered.
“It gave him the encouragement and inspiration to get better,” Roibal said.
As fundraising exceeded $2,000, she contacted a local computer supplier to support New Mexico businesses. Brian Fletcher, who with his wife, Kathryn, purchased Computer Corner, wanted to help.
“I told the family we would be happy to match what they were able to raise through the GoFundMe account,” he said.
Fletcher co-owns FootPrints Home Care, which has a nonprofit benevolent fund supported by owners and employees. The fund contributed $3,000, while Computer Corner salesman William “Dusty” Dial volunteered to give up his commission.
Fletcher hopes to help distribute tablets to other hospitals and senior care facilities.