Heads Up Armando ~ Let’s Double Down On Accident Prevention

This has been a not-much-progress week so far. Monday was a holiday. No Armando, and I decided to take the day off to rest. Tuesday I managed to get six rafters welded into place, and today, Wednesday, I visited a neighbor in the hospital.

Hospital? Si. Yesterday just before 5:00 in the afternoon Cynthia heard a loud crash. We were just starting to prepare dinner at the rental house. Cynthia heard someone yell, “Fred!!! Fred!!! Fred!!!” It was our neighbor, Ramiro. Ramiro and another man have been working on Ramiro’s house, painting and doing general maintenance. It’s not actually Ramiro’s house; he works for the owner. He lives there full time as the caretaker. Anyway, the guys had a section of pipe scaffolding about 20-feet high set up at the side of the house.

Ramiro was working on the ground under the scaffolding. Somehow, the details are unclear to me and perhaps everyone, a metal, ten-foot-long, double 2×4 carriola, similar to the ones I have been using, fell from the top of the scaffolding. If you are squeamish, let me just say that Ramiro was badly hurt. You can stop reading now.

The double carriola came down end first on the top of Ramiro’s head, and like a cookie cutter, cut a four-inch by two-inch “L” shaped gash down to the skull.

After an unbelievable belt on the head, Ramiro didn’t pass out, but began yelling for me. The other man ran to our house and yelled out what had happened. Although I didn’t understand everything he said, I knew to roll Ambulancia de Fred.

Ramiro’s sister was visiting him, and she got a big bath towel wrapped around his head. Ramiro got into the car and I flew down into town, horn blowing and flashers flashing, to Central Salud, our local bare-bones (no pun intended) emergency clinic.

Head wounds bleed profusely and he lost a lot of blood. The towel was saturated. I’ll stop with that description there.

I blew the horn when I arrived at the clinic and a nurse responded immediately. We got him inside and the doctor dropped what he was doing (stitching a cut on another man’s hand) and got to work on Ramiro.

Many stitches later, the bleeding had stopped. The doctor said that they were going to transport Ramiro by ambulance to the hospital in Penonome’ that serves this area of our province.

The doctor thought it would be best if I followed the ambulance so that I would be on hand to help in case Ramiro passed out and couldn’t give his particulars. The cost to Ramiro for the stitching up, which they said he could pay later, was $1.50. That’s a dollar. And fifty cents.

The ambulance managed the usually-an-hour-and-a-half trip in under an hour. The ambulance driver said that I was pegamento (glue) on his bumper.

Ramiro was taken by wheelchair through the emergency room and into the Trauma Center. I know it was the Trauma Center because there was a sign on the door. The small room had two cots. This room also doubled as a supply room, and I could have easily filled my pockets with syringes and other supplies that were lying about the floor and on shelves in cardboard boxes.

The only piece of medical equipment in the room was a large tank of oxygen. It was standing, unsecured, against a wall. While we were waiting, I heard an oxygen tank fall down in another room. Ramiro and I ducked for cover.

The first order of business was to record Ramiro’s name and other particulars. The nurse took his social security card and made a copy of it.

In Panama, full-time employees are required to be enrolled in social security. One of the benefits is that the poor and the very poor can get nearly-free medical care at any age. There are two types of hospitals in Panama: top-tier hospitals similar to better stateside hospitals, and the social security hospitals that leave a lot to be desired in all categories. Ramiro was in the second category.

In due time IVs were hung, shots were given, and X-rays were taken. I was asked to help wheel the gurney to and from X-ray as there was a shortage of available personnel.

At 9:00 Ramiro was really hungry, and so was I, so I set out to find a place to buy some fruit juice that Ramiro could drink through a straw, and I found some white rice for myself. It was quick. When I returned, Ramiro was just about to take a sip of his fresh pineapple juice when the nurse wagged her finger at him. Water only. So I enjoyed the rice and pineapple juice, a fine repast.

At 11:00 p.m. the doctor informed us that Ramiro would need to stay at least overnight, so I went on my way back home. Unfortunately I had to obey the speed limit as I had no ambulance to follow.

This morning Ramiro called and told me that he would be staying another day. Would I bring him a change of clothing? Sure. So back I went. He was still in his blood-soaked work clothes from the day before and hadn’t been allowed a shower. In the social security hospitals, there are no gowns to change into. If you want sheets on your bed or a pillow, a family member needs to bring them from home. If you want anything beyond medical care, toiletries or toilet paper for example, your family must provide it.

A tech came in to change the dressing while I was there. He needed an extra pair of hands, and had me, without gloves, hold the gauze on Ramiro’s head while he applied the stocking net.

Ramiro frequently comes by our house with a ripe papaya or a bag of oranges. Cynthia and I practice our Spanish and he his English. If we need anything, we can always count on Ramiro, and he lights up when we make a pizza for him. I bought him a newspaper and a $3 card to recharge his phone and because he looked tired, I went on my way.

Here’s a photo of Ramiro, already overnight in the hospital, and still in his bloody work clothes:


The man with nine lives. Remarkably lucky. It could have been worse.

So this morning I told the tale to Armando. “Let’s wear our hardhats from now on.” I am always cautious on the job. But after having this experience, we’re going to double down before a double 2×4 comes down on one of us.

That’s all for now. I’ll try to get some work done tomorrow.

If you are game, here’s a picture of the wound:



The doctor told me that he purposely left space between the stitches so that the wound would “weep.” He was very concerned about the potential for a hematoma so close to the brain.

17 thoughts on “Heads Up Armando ~ Let’s Double Down On Accident Prevention

    • Fred , As you said once before , everyone helps everyone where its a case of necessity , as In who has a car for starters , hope Ramiro is doing ok , and comes out of this accident without too much of a trial , the man is lucky to be alive , any higher , no the thought dos`nt need to be spoken , worked in mining and earthworks for about twenty three years , always wore a lid (hardhat) the thing is never work under anyone above you , never look anywhere but at the work being done and always remember that gravity is the thing that makes loose things come down . The trick is . Don’t be under them when they do , this will also be a (pardon the pun) heads up for Armando , not that I think for a moment you are not reminding him that , yes , we do need to wear the safety gear at all times , one other thing , and I know you know this , keep the workplace clear so if someone does slip , they don’t fall onto something else , like a chair or bench . Regards and stay safe , being selfish here as I want to see the rest of the build 😉 , be carefull on that roof , regards to the girl , Mike

      • Thanks Mike,

        Ramiro is out of the hospital today, Thursday. His employer is picking him up as I write this. This was certainly quite a scare, it could have been worse in so many ways. No fractured skull, no crushed vertebrae, no concussion, no neurological damage, no dead. What a lucky man, although he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Reminds me of the line in The Karate Kid: “Best block, no be there.”

  1. great news about Ramiro > He and Armando will be able to compare scars , First of the really heavy rainfalls of winter here , two fronts , one right behind the other pouring down as I type , 5.30 am Thursday , Perth , Australia , regards Mike

    • I’m glad you got your first big rain. We are still waiting… a few showers but the rainy season is three weeks late. Panama has closed schools, reduced government office work hours, and restricted air conditioning, all to try to avoid electricity rationing. The major reservoirs at hydroelectric dams are only two feet above critical. Fifty-percent of our power comes from hydro. As much as I am enjoying the ability to make progress, WE NEED RAIN!

      • If the electricity gets that critical and with the way weather is fluctuating I think I would consider a backup solar , windfarm system . of course only when everything else is done , no electricity means no water out of the well , consider a rain tank or two also I`m thinking . can never have to many backup systems , overhead watertank would not go astray either for house plumbing , arrrr , the list goes on : 0 )

        • Mike, When this neighborhood was laid out, a gravity water system was constructed; there is an underground trickle feeding a large, buried concrete cistern in the side of the hill to the west of us. The cistern has water in it most of the year but I would have to get a small pump to provide enough height for showers. Currently two houses that are only infrequently occupied are connected to the system. I’ve been ogling a deep well hand pump on the Internet but the price is nearly a grand. It will have to wait. We do have a small 220-volt gasoline powered generator but that is only for brief outages. I’ll wire the generator to power the well pump.

          We have two solar panels to make hot water plus a small solar panel and pump; They just need to be connected when I plumb the house. Cynthia is sure that I can hack an old washing machine motor to make a wind generator… that will wait also. When the house is done we would like to install a few solar panels and batteries and an inverter; this is my priority for backup power. LED light bulbs are getting better and cheaper and there is an LED lighting store in Panama City that I want to check out. I just read that Panama has a net metering program but even if it is official, I am hesitant to feed power into the grid because I can’t be sure that the local line crew would know how to protect themselves from my feed into the grid. I also just read that Panama has passed a resolution or law to support solar power to reduce fossil fuel use for power generation in the country. We’ll see how that goes, although Panama is on a building frenzy of infrastructure; a new lane for the Panama Canal, a new, nearly completed (phase one) subway system for Panama City, many new hospitals, modernizing the road system in the city with fly-overs at major, normally gridlocked intersections, a new, modern bus system to replace the aging fleet of retired U.S.A. school buses, a new international airport about 45-minutes from us, and on and on.

          In the master bathroom, we will be bumping out the container wall to create a glass block shower enclosure. I am planning two overhead water tanks above the shower; one for cold water and one for hot from the solar panels. This will take up the slack during our many brief power outages. The other day I called the power company to report intermittent power on one of the 110 lines and I have to give them credit because they arrived within an hour of the report and found the bad splice at the transformer in just a few minutes.

          I don’t think that I am a hard-core prepper, but I do have a healthy distrust of grid distribution systems of power, water, food, propane, and gasoline/diesel. A few days of any one of them breaking down would cause major problems. We have our well, self-generated power is on our list, and we will have the aquaponic fish/vegetable production in the not to distant future. But as you say, the list goes on…

  2. Gee Fred, that post also answered a couple of other questions I had and was meaning to ask 🙂 . Should of known by now those things were already on the list 🙂 , leave you to it , Mike

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