HELICOPTER RESCUES INJURED WOMAN AT GONZAGA BAY
Jan. 27, 2005, Mindy Selinger, Papa Fernandez, San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico Medical Evacuation Report:
It was a dramatic 2 a.m. U.S. Coast Guard helicopter rescue at Gonzaga Bay. The unthinkable had happened. My mother, Carol Schall, fell and broke her hip, near Alfonsina’s at Gonzaga Bay.
I received a satellite phone call at 6 p.m. during the night with the news. I immediately called the Binational Emergency Medical Care Committee (BEMCC), and their 24/7 operator had the director, Celia Diaz, call me back within three minutes.
By 10:30 p.m., after numerous phone calls, Celia Diaz had arranged clearance for the U.S. Coast Guard to fly a helicopter to Gonzaga Bay and pick up my mother. They got there about two in the morning, and my mother was in Sharps Hospital in San Diego by 7 a.m.
I cannot even begin to say how valuable the Binational Emergency Medical Care Committee was through this ordeal. I had arranged for membership for my parents and I had bugged my mother for weeks to get me the medical insurance information that BEMCC keeps on file. Mom mailed it to me as they were driving out of town on the way to Gonzaga Bay. THANK GOODNESS!
For a paltry $30 a year membership fee, BEMCC is there to be the liaison between governments (for my mother, they had to get clearance from Mexico City), distraught family members, insurance companies, and emergency services, to get the injured person back to the U.S. as soon as possible. This membership is PRICELESS!
My heartfelt thanks goes to Celia Diaz, BEMCC, and the gang at Alfonsina's who helped my mother through this. Also, to the U.S. Coast Guard, for their amazing promptness (Mom said they were very handsome, too).
My mom and stepdad, Clem Schall have lived full-time in Rosarito Beach for 20 years. They are old-time Baja travelers since "before pavement." Mom loves to fish and is a past president of Lady Anglers in Oceanside.
For a 78-year-old woman, she is doing well. There was no problem with the surgery. She will need some rehab and will not be able to go home to Rosarito for a couple of weeks.
Gonzaga Bay was a favorite of theirs. On one trip, their camper was shaken nearly to pieces so they left it at Papa Fernandez' campo because it would not have survived the trip home. That was ten years ago and they built a house next to it.
Clem, 82, is a retired contractor. About five years ago, he had a heart attack down there and a private pilot flew them out. So now both of them have been evacuated from their favorite place on earth!
Celia Diaz Report:
Jan. 28, 2005, Celia Diaz, Binational Emergency Medical Care Committee (BEMCC), Gonzaga Bay, Mexico Medical Evacuation Report:
I am planning to make an appointment with the U.S. Coast Guard to thank them personally for their immediate response in this incident. I am sure Carol Schall would have suffered serious injuries if we had moved her by land to San Felipe. The road is extremely rough for about 50 miles.
I explained to the U.S. Coast Guard that there was no other way to bring her out. There was a small plane on site, but she was unable to sit, due to the hip fracture.
The U.S. Coast Guard understood the problem when I told them that the air ambulance was not able to land at Gonzaga Bay, only in San Felipe, and we could not transport her by ground.
The asked if there was a Mexican helicopter service available nearby. I said "no way." In about 10 minutes, I received a call from the Alameda U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Center who asked me for the coordinates. We made some calls to Mexico City to request permission to send the U.S. Coast Guard into Mexican Territory. The U.S. Coast Guard received a response from Mexico City within a few minutes and they were on their way.
It was so lucky to have a person on site at Gonzaga Bay who had a satellite phone. He was a U.S. fireman and paramedic. His name is Steve Bacon. He was such a wonderful volunteer in this situation. He deserves so much praise for keeping the patient stable until help arrived. I asked the U.S. Coast Guard to call him directly to obtain the medical information and final coordinates for landing at Gonzaga Bay.
I advise anyone that is going to be traveling or staying in a remote area to obtain a satellite phone. They are fabulous in case of emergency.
I thank everyone for their assistance in making this evacuation a real success. Thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard and the fireman who was at the site, we were able to accomplish our mission and a life was saved.
Doug Magee Report:
Jan. 26, 2005, Doug Magee, Papa Fernandez, Mexico Medical Evacuation Emergency Report:
Celia Diaz' successful effort on the night of January 24th, 2005 was outstanding. The evacuation of Mrs. Schall went off without a hitch. Ms. Diaz' ability to get a Coast Guard helicopter to our remote location in Baja was without a doubt the best, timely executed use of contacts and resources to facilitate an extraction of an injured person, that I have seen in my 20 years of Search and Rescue exposure. I was with the Mono County Sheriff's Search and Rescue for many years (20. What Celia put together in the middle of the night to get that helicopter in here was one of the finest and fastest uses of contacts and resources that I have ever seen. Her ability to work with authorities on both sides of the border is amazing.
(See "Mexico Fishing News" online for current fishing reports, photos, weather, and water temperatures from San Felipe and other major Mexican sportfishing areas. Vacation travel articles, fishing maps and seasonal calendars, and fishing related information for San Felipe may be found at Mexfish.com's main San Felipe page.