Breckenridge area fire department partners with nonprofit to train paramedics in Honduras | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge area fire department partners with nonprofit to train paramedics in Honduras

From left: Maggie Ducayet, Tim Caldwell, Clint Mass, Joan Ferris, Drew Hoehn, Ryan Peters and Bobby Gertson. Hoene, Peters and two other firefighters from the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District will be spending a week in Honduras providing medical training to an ambulance crew.

Maggie Ducayet has made more trips than she can count down to Honduras, where she and her nonprofit, Summit in Honduras, work to improve the lives of people living in remote village areas. So, experienced as she is, she expected the packing on Friday to take most of the afternoon.

That was until a fire truck rolled up to her driveway and six firefighters hopped out, climbing the ladder of her storage loft and trundling gear and supplies into a dozen duffle bags in minutes, not hours.

"I think a lot of my neighbors were probably sticking their heads out the window thinking, 'What's going on over there?'" Ducayet said.

Unfortunately, the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District isn't starting a new luggage-packing service. Instead, they were there to help out because four of their own were set to join Ducayet early Saturday morning for the long trip to La Entrada, a town in the mountains of western Honduras.

There, they'll spend a week outfitting the town and surrounding area's first ambulance — which Summit in Honduras is providing — and giving emergency medical training to its staff.

"I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of soccer with the kids, too," said Ducayet, laughing. "A lot of them have never seen a fireman before, so that alone is a novelty."

Summit in Honduras made its first trip to the country 12 years ago, after St. John The Baptist Episcopal Church in Breckenridge won a $20,000 grant for international outreach.

But Ducayet found after the first trip that separating from the church would allow the group to pursue non-parochial projects, like funding school construction and assisting at medical clinics.

In one of the trips that followed, Summit in Honduras brought doctors and other medical professionals from the county to help out at Manos Amigas, a clinic in La Entrada.

"On the last day, a lot of people showed up who had walked for two days because they heard we were there," Ducayet recalled. "When we saw that people were coming from these remote villages, we realized we needed to move around to where we were needed."

Now, rather than staking out in one place, Summit in Honduras travels around providing care in the villages around La Entrada. It has also recruited and trained two people from nine of the villages to act as "health guardians," who are taught the basics of medical care.

Recently, a serious bus crash in a remote area brought the need for emergency medical transport into sharp focus.

"People died because there was no transportation to the hospital," Ducayet said. "They were putting people in the back of pickup trucks, and the closest hospital was two hours away."

The mayor of La Entrada approached Summit in Honduras and asked if there was any way they could help him get an ambulance, which would be a first for the area. It was uncharted territory for the nonprofit, but eventually they decide to give it a try.

They sat down with the mayor and drafted up a contract: If he found a proper garage for the ambulance, put together a staff and ensured it would be available 24/7, Summit in Honduras would find him a proper vehicle.

After a bit of searching and word-of-mouth, they got in touch with another nonprofit in Honduras that had some Range Rovers they were trying to unload. The group offered one to Summit in Honduras for $27,000, a bargain for a car that retails for just shy of six figures. But it was still a big ask for the small nonprofit.

Luckily, Ducayet said, two local donors pitched in $10,000 each, and the other $7,000 they were able to raise through bake sales and fundraisers.

The last step was finding some paramedics who would be willing to pack up at the height of ski season in Colorado and head down to the balmy mountains of Honduras.

Ducayet eventually found a recruiter in Drew Hoehn, a firefighter with Red, White & Blue and husband to one of her friends.

"She asked for four of us to come, and I really didn't know what kind of response we would get," said Hoehn. "But we ended up getting 12 people, so we had to pull names out of a hat."

The three lucky winners to join Hoehn were Randy Felix, Aaron Schlachter and Ryan Peters.

Fire chief Jim Keating supported the trip, and along with the local firefighter's union offered to pitch in some money to help buy supplies for the ambulance. Peak One Express also offered to help, and agreed to shuttle the group and their hefty bags down to the airport Saturday morning.

"We laid all of this groundwork, but then the big deal was, 'How do we train them?'" Ducayet said. "With Red, White & Blue, there was never a moment of hesitation."