Emergency Service Blog – Guadalajara, Mexico
Oh, Mexico… my favourite country on earth – you never cease to impress me upon each visit. I just can’t seem to stay away!
If I’m being honest, I was nervous to attend this project in Guadalajara due to Mexico’s dangerous reputation, despite visiting the paradise beaches of the east coast previously. However, upon arrival I immediately felt comfortable in what is known as the second largest city in Mexico. I was lucky enough to be placed in Gloria’s house with her lovely family throughout my stay. We were located 100 meters away from the Expiatorio – a stunning cathedral and square that was always buzzing each night with local food markets, salsa-dancing lessons and live music. Oh, and the two rooftop bars next door became our local nightcap destinations after a long day of work!
Gloria became known as our Mexican Mumma. She cooked us amazing local food, she told us to be careful every time we went out, she became nervous when we came home later than expected, she bought us tea into bed when we weren’t feeling well, and she even held my hair back when I was vomiting from too much tequila… while also shaking her head!
My first week was spent in the Cruz Verde Emergency Department, which turned out to be an endless flow of patients in and out, mostly with traumatic injuries. Most of these were sustained from workplace accidents, motor vehicle crashes and assaults. On my first day I was able to assist in the management and treatment of my first ever gun shot wounds. I was blown away to see the patient hobble out of the ED within 3 hours of arrival after being shot through his knee and groin while continuing to bleed out!
The most shocking injuries I saw were from patients held hostage and tortured by drug cartels gangs. I was told that this is really common, even beheadings, however it only happens to victims that are members of opposing cartels and they consequently know the risks when getting involved in the first place! Life lesson – as everyone will know from Narcos – don’t sell drugs in Mexico!
I was also lucky enough to witness an orthopedic surgery of an ankle reconstruction following a severe break which was really interesting to see – I had to keep reminding myself I was in a hospital and not a building site after seeing the equipment they were using!
I also learnt skills such as how to properly irrigate, clean and suture wounds as deep as the muscle, insert nasogastric tubes and suction appropriately, and apply casts for broken bones.
The following 2 weeks I spent on the ambulance with both the Cruz Verde and Cruz Roja. Patient assessment on scene was very difficult only knowing basic Spanish. The paramedics spoke very minimal English while the patients no doubt do not speak it either! Therefore, my assessment became more practical – I would take blood pressures, heart rates, temperatures, oxygen saturations, control haemorrhage, insert intravenous cannulas and hang fluids… leaving the Spanish questioning to the paramedics! You never knew what job you were attending because the paramedics were unable to say so in English, which added excitement and nerves to the crazy experience. I also completed my first ever night shifts, which I haven’t had the opportunity to do so in Australia; I would recommend doing night shifts on the weekend, as they were busy and fun!
On our days off, we were able to explore the area in which we were living. Throughout my time in Guadalajara, I visited Chapala which is home to Mexico’s largest fresh water lake which was beautiful, we drank endless amounts of tequila in the town where tequila is made (I thought I had died and gone to heaven) and we also climbed La Barranca de Huentitan canyon which had stunning views. Nights out on the town with the other volunteers from around the world as well as the local paramedics always turned out to be a good laugh.
GMP staff such as Luis, Zuhey, Kevin and Ariel provided endless support and were just a phone call away if we ever needed anything… so thank you guys!
Overall, I had an unbelievable experience as a result of my placement in Guadalajara. I was exposed to so much trauma that I feel will benefit my future practice as a paramedic and nurse tremendously in terms of physical management and emotional response. I’m slightly disappointed to go back to being on an Australian ambulance, as it is unlikely that it will be as exciting as the situations I witnessed in Mexico! I will miss the tacos, the people and the mariachi music until I come to return once more!
So if you are a paramedic or nursing student thinking about doing this placement in Guadalajara, pack your bags and get on that plane… you won’t regret it!
Great report Bethanie! If you are interested in following in Bethanie’s footsteps and joining this type of project in Mexico, find out more here: Paramedic project in Mexico