the american Beth Callahan came to Puerto Rico to get rid of the tensions caused by having worked as a medical assistant in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic -which on US soil alone has claimed the lives of more than 900,000 people-, but a fall while visiting El Yunque keeps her in a coma in a hospital on the island.
It happened on Wednesday of last week. Callahan—together with her husband, Daniel, and their 8-year-old twins—went on a group hike in the National Forest. After the walk, some hikers started jumping from a waterfall.
At first, the nurse hesitated. She hesitated twice. His sister Sarah Nethercote Hart He said that Beth didn’t usually take risks. But, she decided to try it a third time.
“She was being encouraged to try something fun that she normally would never do, and she ended up trying to back up, slipped and hit her head on the way down.,” Nethercote Hart told Boston 25 News.
Beth was knocked unconscious. The blow caused a serious brain injury that keeps her intubated in an intensive care unit at a hospital in San Juan. From the profile of her husband it is clear that it is the Trauma Hospital in the Medical Center.
Among the visitors to El Yunque on the day of the excursion that Beth and her family were on, there were, coincidentally, other health workers who were also on vacation in Puerto Rico to rest from the wave of cases and hospitalizations caused by the omicron variant.
“She, very lucky, was treated by at least three health workers who were on site and then by an ER doctor who works in Chicago.”Nethercote Hart said. “And (the doctor) walked back, or ran back, and was able to help keep my sister alive and breathing for about an hour until help came.”
the doctor is Chris Knopp, 42, who works in an emergency room at a hospital outside of Chicago. That day, minutes before, she had also thrown herself from the waterfall.
A man alerted Knopp’s tour guide to what had happened. Another member of that excursion looked for a signal so he could call an ambulance. Meanwhile, the doctor went down to the scene. There, he found a surgical resident and two nurse anesthetists who had stabilized Beth. The twins were moved far from the place.
“It was frustrating because there are some things you could intervene on the field, for example a broken leg. But you could tell in a few seconds that she needed a neurosurgeon”Knopp told The Boston Globe.
Beth worked in the intensive care unit at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts. For the past two years, she has devoted almost all of her time to caring for COVID-19 patients. In addition, she had to hold the iPad so that some of her most severe patients could say goodbye to her relatives before they died. She believed that, with the decline of the delta variant, the end of the pandemic would begin. But it was not like that.
“What I really think affected her was the increase in omicron, because she had prepared herself mentally for things to get better. And she decided, after two years of many ‘iPad goodbyes’ and taking care of people with fans, that she was tired and needed a break, so she decided to go”, noted Nethercote Hart. “So his last day was in early February.”
The new day he tried to contact Nethercote Hart, but received no response. Neither the Police Headquarters Press Office nor the Rio Grande municipal headquarters have a complaint about the incident in their files.
The woman was still in a coma yesterday, Wednesday, according to a request on the GoFundMe platform made by the sister.
“The good news is that she is alive, although this could take months to recover. Beth has lovingly cared for COVID patients for the last two years and had just left Lahey Hospital after 7 years for a much needed break. This was the vacation she had been waiting for and it is an incredibly cruel twist of fate that this happened to the most selfless person I know.”read the request for money.
On the page you can see images of Beth, smiling, with her family. The petition has raised more than $103,000, of a $100,000 goal, for “medical expenses not covered by insurance, long-term rehabilitation, child care and other supports for her family.”
In addition, the family wants to transfer the woman to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Although initially there was not a room of hers in the intensive care unit for her, since they are still filled, in part, by COVID-19 patients, they managed to get one of hers.
Yesterday, Thursday, the first attempt was made to transfer her, but the flight had to return to Puerto Rico due to mechanical problems, however, they are expected to leave today.
“She began to respond very slightly to some stimuli”Nethercote Hart said.
“We don’t know what his prognosis is. It’s a big question mark,” said Nethercote Hart. “It could be anything from, you know, playing with his kids in his backyard in a few months, to long-term rehab for the rest of his life. We just have no idea at this point.”
The twins have returned home to Arlington, Virginia, and Daniel remains in San Juan.
“Her and her husband were high school sweethearts, so I’ve known Dan since he was 14 and just seeing him wrestle like this, even though he’s putting on an unbelievably good face, it breaks my heart.”Beth’s sister lamented.
The El Yunque National Forest Portal reopened on Thursday, January 20, after almost five years closed. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
Now, it sports a new look not only in its structure, but also in its vegetation that will give visitors the first vivid image of the nature of that ecosystem. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
The educational space -which was originally inaugurated in 1996- has a new façade after an investment of $20 million and educational resources. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
Some of the new attractions at El Portal are: a Puerto Rican Parrot exhibit, an educational exhibit on a tropical rainforest and the effects of climate change, as well as an exhibit on water as the engine of El Yunque. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
The visitor center now spans 40,000 square feet including a conference room, movie theater, ballroom, new sidewalks, restaurant, co-working space and art exhibits. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
In the movie theater, the Forest Service administration explained, a 20-minute film will be shown showing the various paths of El Yunque, the beauty of its bodies of water and some of the Taino petroglyphs that are preserved in the forest. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
The Portal facilities have a capacity to receive 1,668 people. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
Keenan Adams, El Yunque supervisor, and Pedro Pierluisi during a tour of the facilities. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
View of the sidewalks in the renovated El Yunque Forest Portal. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
Pierluisi attends the inauguration of El Portal. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
The visitor center has been closed since 2017 after Hurricane Maria. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
New sign at the Portal entrance. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
This is what sidewalks look like. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
Admission to El Portal will be free for minors, but will cost $8 for adults. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
View of the facilities. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)
The number of visitors the center received prior to its closure was estimated at 600,000 a year, so the Forest Service projects an annual income of $3 million during a “normal” year of tourism. (Ramon “Tonito” Zayas)