Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Positively Shocking Addition to Loreto Bay!

During the recent HOA sub-regime Annual General Meetings there was a brief presentation by Marybeth, a Homeowner, regarding a recent purchase by the HOA, funded out of last year´s budget, of an AED, or Automatic External Defibrillator, the Zoll AED Plus.  In layman´s terms, an AED is used in the event of cardiac arrest to guide even non-professional rescuers through an appropriate first-aid response up to, but not necessarily including, delivering a series of defibrillating shocks to the patient.

I was interested in this story and later met with the two Homeowners who Doug, a retired Doctor and Marybeth, a critical care and ER nurse in Washington state.  These two got together over a year ago to talk about their shared concerns regarding emergency medical capabilities here in Loreto. 

As I have written about in these pages before (Loreto´s Maestro Limpio, April 2010) although there is a relatively new Hospital here in Loreto its capabilities are more equivalent to a walk-in clinic in most major centers in North America.  While these facilities are adequate for “first aid” like simple broken bones, cuts, etc. Marybeth and Doug were concerned with what would happen in the event of a life threatening crisis, given the demographics of Loreto Bay and the fact that the longer term residents are retirement age and beyond.

At the top of their priority list was one of these increasingly popular defibrillators that can be used, with a minimum of training, by non-medical personnel.  They then approached Jorge, the HOA Administrator, and determined that there were sufficient funds set aside in the HOA budget for the purchase of such equipment and so now this potentially life-saving technology is available on site here in Loreto Bay.

Plans are still being developed, but several goals have been identified; training and certifying the Security Staff on the operation of the AED equipment and CPR, as well as making hands on training available for Homeowners, ensuring that there is at least one English speaking Security person available 24 hours a day, and establishing an emergency procedure with clear specific information on what to do in the event of Loreto Bay resident experiencing such a medical emergency. 

This information will be distributed in some convenient form, possibly a fridge magnet or card that will be distributed to each home in the development, and can be easily referred to if necessary.  Although all of the details have yet to be worked out, the general idea will be that we can call Security in an emergency and they will contact the Bomberos, or Ambulance service in Loreto, and co-ordinate with them the directions to locate where the patient is.  Meanwhile, Security staff will bring the AED to the resident´s home and will be trained to perform CPR, and, if necessary, defibrillation until the Ambulance and EMT arrives.         

Once the patient has been transported to the local Hospital stabilization and further assessment become the priority, which brings us to the next item on the wish list.  Currently there is a very basic “three lead” EKG machine at the Hospital, but for a useful assessment a “twelve lead” machine is required and fund raising is already underway for the purchase of one to loan to the Hospital.
One obvious benefit of being able to conduct a more thorough assessment of this kind is to be able to make better decisions about what the next best course of action is for a patient, either transfer by Ambulance to larger Hospitals in Constitution (1 ½ hours) or La Paz (3 ½ hours) or the option of air medi-vac back to the US or Canada, which can be covered by specific insurance policies.

In my conversation with Marybeth she also had some common sense suggestions which will probably be included in a future information package that is also in the planning stages.  First of all, it is a good idea for us all to consider what we would do in an emergency situation, who we would call and what we would do – an emergency plan for the house.  She also suggested that we could independently arrange a sort of “buddy” system so we would have a “medical advocate” who could accompany us and would be looking out for our best interests in the event we were unable to.

She also stressed the advantage of knowing someone who was fluent in Spanish, who could be called upon to assist if we were admitted for care, because, while some Doctors can speak English the rest of the medical staff will likely not.  Along these lines, another piece of equipment that is a high priority is a Spanish/English medical translation device, similar to a cell phone that you can speak into in English and it will talk back in Spanish, and vice versa – and I thought Star Trek was sci-fi!

Another excellent piece of advice, particularly for those of us who are spending extended stays here, is to have a conversation with your regular physician at home about the fact that you spend this period of time in a remote location with relatively few medical resources, so as to better understand the possible implications that could have, given your particular medical history – what risk factors to watch for and danger signs to be aware of.  Ideally, to set up a relationship with your established medical contacts at home so that, in the event of a change or other circumstance occurring while you are here, you can call upon them for advice or a second opinion, so as to be better able to make the appropriate decisions.

The topic of this Blog is of a more serious nature than most of my postings, and I must emphasize my absolute lack of qualifications to offer ANY sort of medical advice, but I think that these sort of discussions are, and will become increasingly important, as our community grows – and ages.  So I thought that it was appropriate to recognize the efforts of two of our Homeowners, Marybeth and Doug, in making the first steps toward establishing these priorities, and our Administrator Jorge, in beginning to develop a Community emergency plan.

As I write this, I am struck by how much more remains to be done in this area, and also how important it is that a beginning has been made!  I know that there are a significant number of Health Professionals who are members of our community, and there are obviously opportunities for more people to get involved as this vital process evolves.  As a first step, I would direct anyone who is interested in contacting Jorge at the Associa Office to find out how they can volunteer or make a contribution to health and welfare of our Community.

Seeing members of our Community stepping forward to begin to develop an emergency response plan for all of us, is a sign that we are moving together from the early stage of Loreto Bay as a paradise get-away, to the reality of life here on a long term basis – and what could be more important to any of us than that - when “Living Loreto”!          

Find out more about the new AED equipment including a training video:

Contact Jorge at Associa for more information on how you can get involved:
Associa Mexico, Loreto Bay: