Meet Valentino Tzigiwhaeno Rivera

Valentino Tzigiwhaeno Rivera is the son of George Rivera, former Governor of the Pueblo of Pojoaque. Valentino and his sister Paloma were going home with their babysitter for a sleepover on March 21st, 2015. They were T-boned while stopped at a red light. Paloma suffered a fractured arm and concussion. Their babysitter suffered fractured ribs and internal injuries. Valentino’s injuries were far more serious which included cardiac arrest. He required resuscitation on scene and suffered a traumatic brain injury, atlanto-occipital disassociation (spine separation from skull), fractured jaw and hip. Both Paloma and Valentino were flown by helicopter from Espanola to the University of New Mexico Hospital, the closest trauma center. Most atlanto-occipital disassociation’s are fatal so we are eternally grateful for all the medical staff, first responders and emergency personnel that intervened to save Valentino’s life. Due to the injuries he sustained from the accident, Valentino immediately faced multiple surgeries and 5 weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit. Due to the injuries, Valentino now has a tracheotomy for breathing, gastric tube for feeding, a collar he must wear to treat the spinal separation and a VP shunt to treat the hydrocephalus caused by the brain injury. Valentino has demonstrated his fighting spirit by facing each of these challenges and prevailing. His parents have been bedside with him nearly 24/7 except for eating and shower breaks.

Most recently, Valentino has blessed us with smiles, a thumbs up and even a giggle through his trach! He is now receiving physical therapy and care at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland – one of the best pediatric rehab facilities in the country for his type of injury. Both of his parents, his grandparents and Paloma are there with him at this time. Valentino continues to make progress, but his recovery will be a long one.

The donations we raise and the proceeds from our RES NM benefit auction will be used to offset Valentino’s medical expenses beyond insurance coverage, as well as the cost of living expenses that Valentino’s parents and grandparents incurred while living in Baltimore with him at Kennedy Krieger. Insurance will only cover 2 months of rehab – a minimum of 3 months is recommended. At this time the family is not fully aware of the cost over insurance coverage from Valentino’s first 8 surgeries, his 5 week stay in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, his Life Flight, etc.