“We had a stressful night on the island!” That’s how Puerto Rico volunteer Jeremy Dougherty, NS0S, described a medical emergency on the island of Culebra in which Amateur Radio played a major role. Dougherty, a Force of 50 American Red Cross volunteer who is supporting communication at Culebra Hospital, said fumes from a gasoline fuel container ignited last evening (October 12), seriously injuring a woman who needed immediate help. Dougherty was unable to raise any of the other volunteers in San Juan — likely because of the late hour — but the only doctor at the hospital at the time called Centro de Medico (Medical Central) on a satellite phone to coordinate transportation for the patient. The only other after-hours staff was a nurse.
“This patient was far from being within our scope to treat at this facility,” Dougherty said. “The patient had burns to at least 30% of her body. I had to do a lot of medical work here. The nurse knew the patient — this is a small community — and she left to get belongings from the [burn victim’s] house.” That left Dougherty — a medic who works for the Kansas City (Missouri) Fire Department — to administer first aid.