911 Calling In Belize

Jan Peter Sol  (Dec 28, 1960 - March 25, 2012)

I know my posts are typically very light and full of sarcasm but it is with deep seriousness that I bring this particular blog post to you. My recent online absence has been a result of enjoying a lovely visit from a family friend and then his unfortunate and untimely death while he was here. He died of "accidental/natural" causes and I truly believe that everything in the Universe happens in it's right order, even if it doesn't make sense to us. What do we know? We're only human after all...

The point of this post is not to go off on a spiritual rant or to rehash the events of the past week but to remind you as I have been reminded that Belize is, even in all it's wondrous glory, still a third world country and San Pedro in particular has absolutely no emergency medical response team. Contrary to what I have been told by other expats as well as the local doc, I recently learned firsthand that when you dial 911 from your cell phone here to report a medical emergency, you are connected with police who take some information and eventually find their way to the scene... most of the time. No ambulance, no pre-hospital triage or medical care whatsoever. In our case police arrived on the scene approximately 45 minutes after the first call was placed. I was told by a neighbor that this was a fairly quick response and probably due to the fact that two other parties called our emergency in after I did, one of them being a major hotel office. A local friend was also good enough to drive into town to fetch the authorities personally. 

In a strangely ironic twist, I was invited to attend a local fundraiser to bring just such emergency services to life in San Pedro on the same day that our friend died. The San Pedro branch of the Red Cross is currently trying to put together a team of first responders for medical and disaster related emergencies and although certain events of that day prevented me from attending the fundraiser, I couldn't be more in support of this initiative. With two young children living on an island, safety and emergency response times are a huge concern for me. I will admit I have been looking at alternative locations over the past week with a move in mind. Considering that I've typically had to call paramedics regarding the kids a few times each year back in Canada when one of them develops croup and turns blue in the middle of the night or chokes on a grape while bouncing upside down on the bed, I just don't know if the Red Cross, even with all their genuine efforts and newly raised funds can get the services up and running soon enough for me to sleep soundly at night.

With reports of  an unacceptable response time in the recent drowning of two tourists here and the experience of our friend's death being so fresh, I think perhaps I'm making a hasty judgement so I will sleep on it (or try to anyway) for a little while longer. If I can get over my 3 a.m. panic attacks and stay here on the island for any amount of time I will likely join the Red Cross as a volunteer and look into some first aid/cpr training as well. If I end up moving on as a result of my concerns I still urge anyone who can to help either by volunteering or donating toward this very important initiative. Let's face it, these concerns could be a deal breaker for some of you considering San Pedro for your next home especially for those with young children but I will keep you posted on the progress the Red Cross is making. This is a beautiful place to live so lets help make it a safe, beautiful place to live. I don't mean to sound like a PSA but hey, they really can't do it alone, they need your help and mine, together we can help save lives. Please see the link below for contact information.


Author's note: We don't know that our friend's life could have been saved even if emergency responders were available and if he were found sooner however it is indisputable that many lives could indeed be saved by quick response times of emergency medical personnel. 

R.I.P. Jan, you will be missed.

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1 Response
  1. Unknown Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Out of all my worries about moving to a foreign country this is not something I thought heavily about as my husband is a romote duty paramedic. Maybe this is something I need to review.

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