Canadian Paramedic Brings Ambulance Filled With Medical Equipment to El Tuito

Erin Haluschak - Comox Valley Record
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December 8, 2015


Ryan Thorburn is taking this ambulance full of medical equipment to a Mexican community in need. Image Credit: CTV Vancouver Island

Ryan Thorburn’s career has taken him across the world to Tokyo and south to Haiti for reactive measures, but he’s counting on his current trip to Mexico to be much more proactive.

The Comox paramedic was a member of the Canadian Medical Assistance Teams which deployed its rapid disaster assessment team to Sendai, Japan in March 2011 following the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

In 2010, Thorburn volunteered with CMAT, working in Haiti following their catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake.

Now, with an ambulance full of donated wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and canes, he is en route to El Tuito, an area about an hour south of Puerto Vallarta, with the goal of helping residents with safe and comfortable medical transport.

“I work for BC Ambulance and I wanted to buy one of the older ambulances and do something with it … I thought that taking it to a small place in Mexico would be kind of fun. That’s what I did. This is from the fleet - it’s actually a Port Hardy ambulance - it was decommissioned. I purchased it from asset disposal through the BC Government. With a few fixes and a few dollars, it’s running tip-top now.”

Thorburn began raising money with the help of friends and family but quickly realized it wasn’t going to be enough. Strathcona Sunrise Rotary Club accepted his initiative as their international project and gave him the destination of El Tuito.

“We’ve done a lot of fundraising. A lot of Mexican dinners, and I’ve hit up all my friends and family for support, and the fire department. We’ve all pitched in.”

Driving down with a friend who works as a wastewater specialist, Thorburn left last week and hopes to be in the region by mid-week this week.

While the ambulance itself won’t be used to make house calls, it will be doing transfers between the clinic in El Tuito, which serves 15 villages, and Puerto Vallarta.

...He plans on crossing the border at Tijuana Dec. 8 or 9, and will return on Dec. 19, after teaching first aid and delivering the equipment and ambulance.

Read the rest at Comox Valley Record.

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