Employer helps nurse get word from stranded dad in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

Local VA sent doctors to check on her father
Posted at 5:27 PM, Oct 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-03 17:27:11-04

It's not every day your employer helps you out with personal problems but for a Tampa nurse worried sick after she couldn't get in contact with her father in Puerto Rico, that's exactly what happened.

Wanda Valakos is used to easing her patient's fears but those under her care at James A. Haley Veteran's Hospital wouldn't know behind her smile; she was fearing for her own father and sister in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

"It was bad," described Valakos. "We couldn't sleep."

Unending calls to her father in San Juan all going unanswered. Valakos knew she had to do something so she asked for help from her employer.

"And you know by the tone they weren't blowing you off, I knew they were concerned," she said.

A social worker tried calling and radio transmissions. Everything to reach the Korean War vet. Carlos Rivera was bunkered down in a San Juan assisted living facility with other veterans.

Unfortunately, Valakos employer was getting nothing but silence. While the work days continued so too did the hospital's attempts until they managed the unthinkable. They worked with San Juan's VA and coordinated for a social worker and two doctors to drive to the vet. They reached him.

"I knew they were going to help," she said, I knew they cared.

From zero communication to a heart warming reunion. Valakos sister sent her a video showing the united family.

"Oh we all cried," she said,  "I mean it's hard, more than a week and not knowing."

As her heart calmed from hearing the voice she desperately needed to hear it also warmed knowing her coworkers are more than just that.

"We are a family and they convinced me more that we are a family," she said.