“Jeeze, that was some crazy sh*t.” I thought as I sat in an ambulance on the coast of Ecuador this week.
I started to recollect what happened as I sat next to the nurse looking down at my friend as the ambulance sped along.
Moments earlier we were on the construction site of where I was in the last day or two of completing 3 tiki huts or “cabañas” on the southern coast of Ecuador.
In the final moments of the day, the lead builder was cutting a piece of wood for the balcony of one of the huts with an electric saw when… “zip” it kicked back and caught him in the shirt.
I was about 30 feet away so I saw it all go down.
At first, his look was of shock, then relief as he thought he missed getting knicked, then as he checked his shirt he realized there was a hole in it.
He lifted up his shirt and … wow… he saw the 6 inch slice in the side of his belly exposing his fat and underneath, different color things that I confirmed later were in fact his intestines.
I had never seen a cut like that.
He waved me over and grabbed my shoulder while another worker took his other shoulder and we walked quickly to the nearby clinic while he held his side. It was conveniently only 1 block or so away.
Once inside we went to the emergency room where he quickly got taped up. The small clinic had to ambulance him to the nearest hospital with surgeons that could stitch him up.
Once we finished the almost hour long ambulance ride he went into surgery, where he stayed for the next 3 hours.
He had to spend the night in the hospital but by the next day he could walk out of there.
He will have to stay off his feet for a couple weeks but the docs said he didn’t cut anything vital, so he should be OK soon.
The total bill from the hospital stay, surgery and ambulance ride = $0 (It was a public, free hospital.)
A few things I learned from the incident:
– Ecuadorian construction sites are VERY hazardous places, don’t just meander through them like you would a park. Proceed with caution, heads up!
– When hiring workers off the street and managing a project yourself you not only have to police them to be sure they’re working, but also to be sure they’re working safely. For instance my worker (and friend) was cutting a board horizontally in the air when he shouldn’t have AND he was looking away from where he was cutting. As well, the nurse at the hospital said construction accidents are quite common but the most common is when workers fall great distances.
– Most public, free hospitals in Ecuador are in fact pretty good and can be relied upon in time of need. Just be sure someone is there that can run to a nearby farmacy and buy you medicines as the doctors ask for them.
– The tool he was using wasn’t mine, but don’t lend Ecuadorian workers your fancy power tools that you may have brought from the US, they will probably say they know how to use them when they really don’t. Let them build how they know how to build.
– I knew this already listening to stories from other people in Ecuador, that’s why I had one of the workers stay back at the job site when the accident happened. But in time of emergency don’t abandon valuables, some sly locals will seize the opportunity to rob you, it’s sad but it’s how it works in poor countries sometimes.
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