WESTMINSTER, Colo. — A healthcare frontline worker who helped patients in the COVID-19 unit at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood and later committed to assisting in New York and Texas as the virus spread, is now in the ICU battling the novel coronavirus.
Roman Valles, 27, is a respiratory therapist. His underlying health conditions put him at high risk for COVID-19, but it was a gamble his brother Ricky Valles says his little brother was willing to take to do what he loves, "help people."
"I begged him to stay, I didn't want him to go," Ricky Valles said.
Roman Valles tested positive on Sept. 29 and fell severely ill. He is now in the ICU at a hospital in Arlington, TX. Roman is the youngest of four siblings.
"He's the life of the party, class clown," Ricky Valles said.
Roman Valles lived in Westminster with his older brother before signing on to help in other states. Text messages have become the primary source of communication for the family now hundreds of miles away from their brother. Ricky Valles pulled up a photo of his brother in the hospital with a big smile, a smile he knows is hiding pain.
"He said bro, 'I'm afraid, I'm afraid to die. I'm scared,'" Ricky Valles said.
The fear only grew on Sunday, when Ricky Valles said the doctor called to inform the family that Roman flatlined and was revived.
"It was frightening, I mean, to hear your little brother died," Ricky Valles said.
Ricky Valles says his brother was doing contract work at hospitals and doesn't have health insurance to cover the cost of bringing him home. He says at this time, it's not clear how much they will have to pay out of pocket for medical expenses despite the CARES Act. But one thing Ricky Valles is sure of is he wants his brother home, close to family.
"We're just keeping faith, praying," Ricky Valles said.
He wants people to continue to take the virus seriously as healthcare workers continue to put their health on the line to help people battling COVID-19.
"I want people to be aware and don't think it's a joke," he said. "It's real, people are dying; people are getting really sick."
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