Family rushes to be by sick soldier’s side
DOTSERO – Families with children in the military know they can get an unwelcome phone call at any time. But Paul and Tammy Luviano never expected the call they received last week.The Luvianos’ son, 22-year-old Paul Jr., is in Germany, a soldier in the Army’s 1st Armored Division. His unit was scheduled to ship out to Iraq in the next several weeks. But his parents received their call a few days ago.Paul Jr. had been diagnosed with leukemia. Worse, he’d also contracted pneumonia, and was critically ill in a civilian hospital in Friedberg. The last his parents knew, he was too sick to move, even to the nearby military hospital at Landstuhl.”We’d gotten ourselves ready for him to go to Iraq, but not for anything like this,” Tammy Luviano said. The situation is so critical that the Army has provided emergency passports and travel vouchers for Paul, Tammy and their oldest daughter, 21-year-old Briana. Paul Sr. left for Germany Friday.But the situation, and the family’s need, is more complicated.Besides Briana, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., the Luvianos have two other daughters, Erika, 19, who also lives in Kansas City, and Brenna, 10, who lives with her parents in Dotsero. Paul Jr. is so sick the entire family needs to be with him. No one yet knows if the next visit will be the last.”Paul is really close to Erika, and asked specifically to see her,” Luviano said. “And Brenna needs to be with her family.”Even if her parents could leave their youngest behind, it would be tough. The family just moved to Eagle County last summer, for Tammy to take a teaching job at Red Hill Elementary School in Gypsum, so the Luvianos don’t really know anyone they’d be comfortable leaving Brenna with for any length of time.
Reaching outAn emergency trip to Germany would be a budget-breaker for most working families in the valley, even if three of five airline tickets were paid for. Again, the Luvianos’ case is more complicated.Paul Sr. is a certified English-Spanish translator, but he has yet to find full-time work, and has been picking up what jobs he could over the last two months. Making ends meet has been tough, but leaving work for what looks like at least a few weeks could be a financial disaster.But bosses, landlords, and the local Salvation Army are all doing what they can to keep the Luvianos on their feet during their son’s illness.Quim Moya, the property manager at Two Rivers Village in Dotsero, told Paul and Tammy not to worry about rent until they return from Germany. And Tammy had enrolled in the Eagle County School District’s sick time bank, in which employees pool their personal and sick leave for use by whomever needs it.”The sick time bank’s been a lifesaver,” Tammy said. “I may just have to take a few days unpaid.”But even with consideration from work and the landlords, the bills are still going to pile up, especially if days away from work turns to weeks. And there’s no way the Luvianos can get two of the five family members to Germany without some help.Co-workers and new friends have offered to help. And the local Salvation Army chapter is on the job, too.
“There’s so much that needs to be taken care of that you don’t think about when something like this happens,” Salvation Army case worker Tsu Wolin Brown said. “That’s why we’re here.”The Salvation Army has already arranged for Colorado Mountain Express to take Tammy and Brenna to Denver International Airport when they leave for Germany this week. The local chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars is going to help, too, probably with airfare, said the organization’s president, Buddy Sims.Travel expenses will probably stretch beyond this trip. Once Paul Jr. is stabilized, he’ll be flown to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for more treatment. His family will need to visit him there, too.There’s emergency cash on hand, but donations are needed. Brown is confident the community will respond, she said. And Tammy Luviano is already amazed by the way her new community has rallied to her family’s side.”It’s been amazing the way people have come together for us,” Tammy said. “It’s really been overwhelming.”=============How to help
The local Salvation Army is accepting tax-deductible donations in the Luviano family’s name. Checks can be made out to the Salvation Army, with “Luviano family aid” written on the memo line. Cash is most needed, but frequent flyer miles or cell phone minutes are welcome, too.Send donations to the Salvation Army, P.O. Box 2183, Edwards, CO, 1632====================Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado