Old Summit County ambulance to benefit small Mexican village
July 2, 2009
A lot of work went into one of the vehicles parading down Main Street on Saturday. It’s an old Summit County Ambulance that reads "Clinica de Pueblo Viejo" on the side.
It’s the fruit of a project that started nearly a year ago when Parkite Malcolm "Mac" MacQuoid found out a friend, Alejandro Rea, was planning on buying a used pick-up to bolt a bed in the back for an ambulance in his native village of Pueblo Viejo in the Mexican State of Michoacan.
The village, too small to find on most maps, had a clinic serving about 2,500 people staffed by volunteer nurses and occasionally an intern doctor from a nearby town. There was no cell phone coverage in the area and no way to quickly transport patients to the clinic.
About 60 people died a year of things like snake bites and child birth complications, MacQuoid explained.
He realized he might be able to help with the ambulance. With the support of the Park City Rotary Club, of which he’s a member, he contracted with Summit County to purchase a decommissioned vehicle for an amount the club was able to raise on its own.
Park City Fire District assistant chief Bob Zanetti said he first learned of the effort in October and he knew just the vehicle for them.
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"They’re not worth anything (in America) when we’re through with them," he said. "It’s a great opportunity for someone to find use of them."
Zanetti said he’s pleased the vehicle can be put to good use.
Ironically, purchasing a used ambulance was the easy part.
Transporting humanitarian medical supplies to Mexico is a very complicated endeavor. Rocio Mejia knows; she does it all the time. Mejia is the director of the Salt Lake City service group Una Mano Amiga.
She has collected donations of about 50 wheelchairs, 700 new jackets, 100 pairs of glasses, 50 pairs of shoes, several canes, crutches and walkers, gadgets for testing sugar levels and equipment to check and monitor blood pressure for Pueblo Viejo.
MacQuoid realized he’d need professional transport as well as security detail to get the ambulance to Michoacan safely. Swift Transportation CEO Jerry Moyes, who also oversees the affiliate Trans-Mex, agreed to drive the ambulance and medical supplies down.
That left getting through customs. After two false starts, MacQuoid thinks they’re finally ready to go in August, but said the process has been "like pulling teeth."
"It’s a dream so close to reality," he said. "You can’t think about the obstacles as much as the benefits."
Everything will be delivered to the nearby city of Uruapan, where a local Rotary Club has formed a relationship with the Park City group and will assist the project upon arrival. Two Park City paramedics, Joe Knight and Andy Avery, have agreed to use their vacation time to train clinic staff from Pueblo Viejo on using the ambulance.
"We’re really excited. It’s going to be really fun to represent the people of Summit County, Park City and the Rotary Club. We’re both looking forward to it," Knight said. "It was quite an honor to be asked by the fire district to go down."
Many other companies and groups in Utah have pitched in on this project. MacQuoid said it’s probably the biggest endeavor the village elders in Pueblo Viejo have ever organized, and it’s definitely the most complicated service project he’s done, he said.
"It was kind of a full-time job the last couple of months," MacQuoid said.
He hopes the village elders will form a Rotary Club charter, which would make future projects to improve communication and potable water in the village possible.
"Wherever you are in the world, Rotary does what it’s supposed to do. Our motto is service above self," he said.