Transport of Patient from Mexico

On Sunday June 9th, 2013, I received a call from one of our members requesting the transport of a family member whom upon arrival to Cabo San Lucas, had fallen and broken her hip. The caller said: WE NEED TO GET HER BACK TO THE STATES FOR SURGERY.
I immediately returned the call and took all the information regarding the injured person, the caller said I am one of your members, but she is not a member, can you still help?

I responded yes, but you need to give me all the information in order for me to get started. The advantage of being a member is, “we don’t have to ask you for the personal information because it is in our files, it saves time during emergency situations”.

I obtained all the personal information, insurance information, name of hospital, type of injuries and told the caller I would call the patient’s insurance company to obtain benefits and make sure she was covered for the emergency air transport. Since it was Sunday, I was not able to obtain the authorization from the insurance company, but I was able to contact the Air Ambulance Company, who also said that the airports would close at 6:00 p.m.,. but they could arrange to pick up the patient the very next day. We just wanted to make sure she was getting the needed medical attention until the medical trauma team arrived to pick her up in the morning.

The family called me back to let me know that they would be waiting for the Air ambulance to arrive to take her home to Pennsylvania.

The next message I received a couple of days later was: “Thank you for evacuating my Aunt from Mexico. We really appreciate everything you did.

Skip Statts -- Surf Rescue

During a recent surf trip to Punta San Carlos I experienced a downward dislocation of my left shoulder due to a surfing mishap. The downward dislocation is less than 1% of all dislocations, it is the most severe and painful of all dislocations, despite three attempts at reduction the arm would not go back in. The accident happened late in the day and the rescue call could not be answered until daylight the following morning.

That night was spent in unrelenting and excruciating pain. The following morning about 1:20 minutes after first light I saw the rescue helicopter landing. My body was in shock but when the helicopter landed I could feel a wave of relief in knowing this rescue was the difference between my shoulder being attended to by a doctor within an hour or two or a self rescue that could have taken the rest of that day or longer.

The Marines and Flight Crew were extremely professional and effective in the evacuation. The helicopter landed in Ensenada at the Military Hospital. I was transfered to an ambulance some 50 feet from the helicopter and transported directly to the waiting staff inside the Emergency Room about a minute away from the landing area.

The ER staff was absolutely incredible, a young officer who I discovered is in training to become a neurosurgeon calmly walked me thru everything that needed to be done. I was cut out of my wet-suit at the same time the IV was established which delivered fluids, muscle relaxant and pain killer. As soon as I was stabilized I was x-rayed, the doctor appeared who would do the reduction and the next thing I knew, I was waking up from the anesthesia and my arm was back in place.

My deepest gratitude and thanx to everyone who played a role in my rescue and to the incredible medical team who made short work of putting me back together. I called the US Coast Guard once I was back home and learned that it was the BEMCC and Celia Diaz who coordinated the rescue. THANK YOU Celia, and BEMCC!!

L.A.P.D Officer Emada Castillo

On June 16, 2009, L.A.P.D. Officer Emada Castillo, 39 years old, was involved in a motorcycle accident on June 16, 2009 in Cabo San Lucas. According to the liaison officer for the L.A.P.D., the hospital was asking for thousands of dollars for air transport, hospital, and medical bills to be paid immediately before the release of Emada. The L.A.P.D. contacted Binational Emergency requesting assistance. Because BEMCC maintains contacts with crucial agencies such as American Consulates, Embassies, Police, Rescue teams, air/ground ambulances and Coast Guard stations on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border area, we were able to assist in the transport immediately.

Details of the case are:

This morning @ 5:45 am, Celia Diaz received a phone call from Jose Bahena, Detective and Liaison officer for the L.A.P.D. requesting assistance with the transport of a fellow officer by the name of Emada Castillo. She was 39 years old, was in Cabo San Lucas, and suffered life threatening injuries due to a motorcycle accident. According to Mr. Bahena, she was at a hospital and under the care of a local doctor. The hospital was asking for thousands of dollars for the air transport, hospital, and medical bills that needed to be paid up front immediately.

Celia Diaz told Mr. Bahena that she would call to obtain personal and medical information and would take care of the transport, and not to worry about what they were asking for. Celia then learned that the Cabo San Lucas hospital was requesting thousands of dollars for the hospital bill before the patient was released. They had also arranged for their own air ambulance to transport her back to the U.S. requesting $25,000.00.

Celia then arranged for the hospital bill to be reduces to $4500.00 and called Kaiser Permanente to authorize the air ambulance transport with a U.S. company Aeromedevac. In this way the family did not have to pay any monies up front for the air ambulance transport.

The patient was flown back on June 17,2009 to a trauma center in Los Angeles, CA just in time to go into surgery. According to U.S. doctors, they received the patient in time to save her leg and possibly her life.

BEMCC got involved and obtained the necessary information to coordinate the air evacuation for Emada Castillo, possibly saving her life and thousands of dollars in the process! This is why it is so crucial for Binational emergency to have emergency contacts, personal and insurance information. Refer a friend and become a BEMCC member and we can save you thousands of dollars too!

Evacuation from Rosarito Beach

Your organization really came through for me last week. We called at a time when I was in deep physical trouble and I needed help immediately. You did a great job of organizing my transportation to UCSD Medical Center from Rosarito. When I got to the medical center, I was in very bad shape from a high loss of blood into my colon. After I was stabilized, the medical staff told me that they were very fearful of losing me. Your service and the skilled medical professionals at the emergency room brought me back from the edge of life. I am now back home and feeling pretty good. My wife and I, during the winter, reside in Club Marena at K 38.5 on the Ensenada/Rosarito free road. Since our return, we have given your contact information to a number of residents here. Thank you does not really say enough about my heart felt gratitude for what you did for me. You were my guardian angels at a time when I needed one. Thanks,

Harry Langford

Rescue from Gonzaga Bay

Dear Celia and all the volunteer staff of BEMCC

Thank you all for everything you do. You are angels. Without a doubt you helped save my nephew’s life. He is not out of the woods by any means but I am sure he would not have had a prayer without your assistance. You did everything you could and now it is in God’s hands. A this point Todd is in intensive care and will be for quite some time. He has a brain bleed, fractured skull, 3 broken ribs, a pierced lung, a broken clavicle, a broken scapula and numerous cuts on his face and body. I know it was a dangerous mission for the Coast Guard to fly at night into Baja. I realize many calls and much red tape had to be taken care of to arrange the rescue. You took care of everything perfectly. Please accept our enclosed donation. I am giving my address to other family members and you will be hearing from them as well.
God bless you and all your volunteers.

Terry and Michael Golden
Jenny & Mike Golden (aunt and uncle)
Frances Conley (grand mother)

Transport of Family Member

Dear Celia,

We wanted to say thank you so much for all your help on November 16, 2007. You were able to help us get the body of our loved one Larry Fisher from San Quintin back to the U.S. in a miraculously short amount of time. Without your help, we would have been lost. Bless you. From: Greg & Pam Foreman, Patti Fisher and families

Note: Larry Fisher, Jr. was involved in an auto accident after the Baja 1000 off-road race. The accident was not race related. His father was with him and his son (Larry Jr.) died on his arms. We just could not get help in time and the father did not have a way to call us when the accident happened and his son was very critical.

Special Agent John Zinna

“[If they would have] told me I would be going back on an ambulance,
I would have given up hope – mentally I would have given up. I was mentally fighting to stay alive.”

“Doctors have considered me a medical miracle.
I consider the miracle the friends who helped me and cared.
It was the effort of everybody involved.
Everybody laid a foundation for me to recover.”
Magical. Amazing communications skills.

These are the phrases Special Agent John Zinna utters repeatedly to describe the day when BEMCC coordinated events that would save his life.
At the age of 15, Zinna joined that niche community of Americans who discover the beauty and fun to be had in Baja California, Mexico. He first started going down south to surf, then he started fishing and most recently he’d go down with friends once a month to ride his ATV. With so much experience in Baja California, Zinna never stopped to think that anything could ever go wrong. That was until Saturday, January 27, 2007 when Zinna, riding at 60-70 mph north of San Quintin, had a collision with a pile of rocks that sent him flying over his handle bars. The collision knocked him out for a moment. His buddies examined him and saw he was numb from the chest down. He was paralyzed. For the next several hours Zinna endured excruciating pain as the race to save his life began.

Finding Help The first players in Zinna’s safe return home were his buddies – they hurried up the beach to gather wood for a makeshift backboard to stabilize Zinna. Luck was also on their side – a friend had recently given his extra satellite phone to a member in Zinna’s group. They were able to call for help using this satellite phone.

The next key players on this day were the ambulance driver and the Mexican police. Upon arrival, they helped carry Zinna to the ambulance, put him on an actual backboard and transported him to Clinica Santa Maria San Quintin were Dr. Toski gave him an IV and anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce swelling.

Zinna praised the key players who’d participated up to this point. He says the police’s professionalism had a calming effect on him and the doctor really knew what she was doing. While in the hospital, a bone was protruding from Zinna’s skin. He was in such pain that he wanted to get off the backboard – but the doctor, knowing this movement would be detrimental to his recovery, made him stay put.

Getting Home While all this was happening, Zinna’s friends were trying to coordinate AEROMEDEVAC back to the United States. The problem was that in this small town the airport had closed and wouldn’t open again until the next morning. It would have taken an ambulance three hours to arrive at Zinna’s location and five hours to return to the border – not to mention the narrow and bumpy roads are not good for transporting a patient at risk of permanent paralyzation.

The accident happened at approximately 11 a.m. – by 4 p.m. Zinna’s friends had been turned down by everyone they had asked for help. The best they could do was coordinate an ambulance ride back to the border. At around 4 p.m., they finally called the right place – they called BEMCC.

Celia Diaz, BEMCC Executive Director, immediately began seeking help. She asked Zinna and his friends to keep their plans for ambulance transportation as a backup plan. Recalling the event, Zinna remembers, “[If they would have] told me I would be going back on an ambulance, I would have given up hope – mentally I would have given up. I was mentally fighting to stay alive.”

Diaz knew that the difference between an ambulance and helicopter ride would determine Zinna’s fate. She knew the importance of getting him back to the United States quickly so he could get the surgery he critically needed.

After confirming that AEROMEDEVAC would not be able to help until the next day, Diaz contacted the U.S. Coast Guard for help. The local U.S. Coast Guard got in touch with U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters and was able to secure permission to evacuate Zinna via helicopter.

The helicopter ride secured with the U.S. Coast Guard required that a physician be on board. Diaz was relieved to find Dr. Andres Smith, Director of Emergency Services at Sharp Chula Vista, on his day off. Dr. Smith was attending a personal event with friends and family, but understood the importance of saving Zinna’s life. With this obligation, Dr. Smith left his event and joined the efforts that would save Zinna’s life.

Defining Moments Diaz directed Zinna’s friends to the Mexican military base in San Quintin where the helicopter would land, but when Zinna and his friends arrived they were not allowed to enter despite their efforts to explain the situation.

Meanwhile, the helicopter was trying to land in complete darkness – a highly dangerous situation. Officials at the military base did not have information about permission for this helicopter to land on their base and therefore, did not turn on the lights.

Diaz then had to get on the phone again. She learned the U.S. Coast Guard had secured permission from Mexico City Headquarters to land on the military base. Diaz then had to communicate this with the Captain at the base. She convinced the Captain to allow the helicopter to land.

At around 11 p.m., 12 hours after the incident, the helicopter landed at the Scripps La Jolla Trauma Center. “I remember Dr. Smith jumping in to the ambulance when the helicopter landed,” recalls Zinna. “It was comforting.”

Recovery Zinna underwent a nine-hour surgery to treat a broken neck and thoracic area. He spent two weeks in intensive care and then four weeks in acute rehab where he had to learn to walk again. Today, he has completely recovered.

When Diaz met Zinna for the first time, she did not expect to see a man walking perfectly without a cane. “I ran three miles and biked ten today,” he says with a smile. “Doctors have considered me a medical miracle. I consider the miracle the friends who helped me and cared. It was the effort of everybody involved. Everybody laid a foundation for me to recover.”