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This fundraiser ended on 08/29/10

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Please join forces with us to help two friends and their families recover from the nightmare they lived after getting into a head-on collision while in Mexico.

This is the kind of nightmare you hear about happening. Until it actually happens to someone in your circle, one does not realize the magnitude of just how scary it can be when things go wrong in a third world country like Mexico.   On Monday night June 7th, my best friends husband (Matt Smith) was involved in a horrific head-on collision in Mexico along with his buddy (Cove Cowan) about 10 hours from the border. This is when we all began to pray for these two to get home safe and quickly, since they were in (of all places) Mexico!   As I waited to hear updates from Jenn (Matt's wife) and her sister (Chris), I felt what I am sure a lot of friends and family felt; helplessness. Jenn has been my best friend for what seems to be forever and now she was dealing with the biggest tragedy of her life and Matt being one of the nicest, most genuine people, one could not help but think, "How can this happen to someone like Matt?". But then we get grounded and realize that these things are out of our control...and can happen to ANYONE. When the email updates started included the phrases "Matt is really hurt", "they were at fault", "US Consulate is involved", "Air Ambulance is being sent", etc, I knew that this was not only going to be a complicated situation, but also a VERY expensive one. This is when I decided to start this fundraiser for Matt and Cove. I do not know Cove very well... but after hearing what he did to save Matt's life on top of what he had to go through in jail, his name now has a new meaning to me and that would be a strong, hero.   It's important to Jenn, Matt and Cove to share their story to hopefully encourage their family and friends to not drive down to Mexico..and if you travel to a foreign country, what precautions to take to safeguard you and your family.   As if this event was not tragic enough, the doctors found a carcanoid (cancerous) tumor in Matt's bronchial tubes during surgery from the accident. He had surgery to remove the tumor and they are waiting a few more weeks find out if there is more cancer that will need to be removed. We're hoping and praying that this is not the case, so Matt and Jenn can move on with their lives and recover from this nightmare.    I would like to raise money for their families to help pay for Matt's truck that was totaled, the hospital fees, the air ambulance and all of the bribes they had to pay to come home. And to also help Matt and Jenn with any medical expenses related to the cancer. Below is their whole story. As you will see Matt, Cove and their families have been through so much already! They are very lucky to be alive and safe at home. The best way to help out these families is to pass this story along to your loved ones as no one deserves to go through something like this. Additionally, if you would like to help out by donating it will be greatly appreciated.   COVE'S STORY On June 7th 2010 my good friend, Matt, and I left San Diego on a surf trip, bound for Cabo San Lucas. The plan was to drive the whole stretch of Baja and surf along the way. About ten hours into the trip, Matt and I pulled into a gas station to get fuel and I took over behind the wheel. If you're not familiar with Baja, Highway 1 is a two lane road with no center divide and no shoulders. Signs warning of dangerous curves and road conditions are few and far between. With this in the back of my mind, we continued south on a long stretch of highway that goes straight for miles...20 minutes can go by without even passing any other cars. We started climbing a hill...at the top there was a very sharp right hand turn that came without any warning/signs. As soon as I saw this turn I knew we were in trouble because there was no time to slow down enough to make the turn without flipping the truck. I slammed on the brakes and tried to keep from locking them up while also trying to negotiate the turn. Doing this I had to partially cross into the oncoming traffic lane. Right as we cleared the turn, the only thing I saw was another truck coming towards us...fast. At that time I braced for impact and we got into a head-on collision going around 45 mph (the other car must have been going 45-50...so it was as if we slammed into a wall going 90 miles per hour). The timing couldn't have been worse. Just a few seconds sooner or later we would have made the turn no problem and continued on our way. After the crash I looked over at Matt to see if he was OK and saw he was unconscious. I pushed the drivers side door open enough to squeeze out of the truck and go to the passenger side to pull Matt out of the vehicle. At this point everything is kind of a blur, but the one thing I remember feeling was completely helpless. My friend is hurt, we are in the middle of Baja with no cell service, I don't speak Spanish and I have no idea where the nearest hospital is. At that point Matt started to come around and another American who stopped at the crash offered me and Matt a ride to the clinic in Santa Rosalia. We drove about 45 minutes south to the clinic and were dropped off at the back door. I don't want to sound negative about the clinic because I know they have limited resources but the care there was very very bad. I don't know if it was because we were Americans or a lack of training. I do know that the staff there never assessed Matt's vital signs more than once in the first 24 hours we were at the clinic. So on to the legal portion of this nightmare. If you are in a accident in Mexico and they determine you are at fault, it is a crime. If you are charged with a crime in Mexico, you are guilty until proven innocent. After the accident investigation was completed, I was determined to be at fault, so I was charged at that time. I was held in custody (in a holding cell) for two days while my family, Matt, and Jenn's families worked together to get Matt home to get the medical care he needed and to get me out of police custody. After jumping through the ''shady'' legal hoops of the local D.A and police department and after being extorted for a sizable amount of money for medical bills for the other driver that I am sure were made up. (I have never seen anyone with a broken femur get out of a vehicle on their own and sit in a clinic with no visible signs of pain.) I was finally released and Matt was able to get a flight home and get the care that he desperately needed. I hope this story might make you think twice before going to Mexico or at the very least shed some light on things that can happen down there. On a positive note, this horrific incident put things into perspective and reminded me what is important in life: Family, health, and friends. Live everyday to its fullest because these things can be taken away in a second. MATT'S STORY Dear Family and Friends, Thank you all for your love and support over the last week. I feel very lucky to have each one of you in my life. Honestly I feel very lucky and grateful to be back on US soil. I have always loved Mexico, but after this trip I can honestly say that the horror stories that I have heard about the country are true. It’s important that I share what happened to us while we were down there, and if it is enough to stop anybody from going down there, writing this story is worthwhile. Cove and I had been driving down the coast of Mexico for about 10 hours, and made it just outside of Santa Rosalia. I don't remember the accident at all, because i was knocked unconscious immediately with the impact. My truck was totaled instantly, the other truck was damaged very bad as well. When we got to the clinic, US embassy officials met us immediately, and this is where I started regaining consciousness. The clinic looked like an abandoned school house, with very limited medical tools/resources. The medical personnel took one look at me and sent me to a local doctor’s office for an ultra sound….the clinic did not have one. The “ultrasound” came back with negative results…little did I know at the time, that I was bleeding internally due to a perforated small intestine. After the ultrasound, they took me back to the clinic and left me alone in a room, without any medical attention. Luckily, Cove convinced the authorities to let him spend the night in the hospital room, so he was able to give me as much medical care as he could with the resources available (P.S. Cove took over the medical care when the attendants tried to give me an ampule of EPI, which was completely the wrong thing to diagnose, and I would have gotten much worse). The entire night we were under surveillance by armed security guardes at the hospital. That next morning, Cove was placed under arrest and sent to jail. I didn’t want to leave Cove, but my injuries started getting much worse, and I knew I needed to get home fast. The only airport was 2 hours away, and the only flight out was an hour and forty five minutes from that time…the next flight wouldn’t be until 2 days later. I rushed to pay the medical bills for my care, Cove’s and the other driver's. I then took my chances, left my cell phone with Cove (so that he could be contacted later) and got a ride to the airport...I missed the flight by 5 minutes. At that time, I was in tremendous pain, I had blood in my urine and I felt like my stomach was going to explode. I used the airport phone to call Jenn collect and she confirmed that she was already working on getting a charter or ambulance plane to come rescue me. The next 8 hours were the scariest, most painful hours of my life. I was in so much pain that I was lying on the tile floor of the airport. There were angry security guards and airport personnel surrounding me, speaking Spanish very fast. An Italian pilot (Ernesto) that flew in for vacation saw what was happening and dropped everything to come over to protect me and translate for me. The Loreto doctor and a warden from the US Embassy found me and tried to get me to go to the local hospital. I have heard horror stories of Americans going to hospitals, being forced into surgeries that didn’t end well...I was determined not to fall into this category. The entire time I was down there, I didn’t know who to trust…and at the time, I didn’t trust these two people that were trying to make me leave the airport when I didn’t want to miss my only ride home. Later, I found out that my good friend Danny (a firefighter that I work with) had contacted someone in Loreto...and she had sent the doctor and US Embassy representative to come find me in the airport. I am very grateful for their help!  I agreed to go to the hospital with the condition that they allowed me to get on whatever type of plane came to rescue me. (Jenn and my family and friends were all working on hiring planes to come rescue me..and I didn’t know if it would be a private jet or an air ambulance). Once agreed, I allowed them to take me to the Loreto hospital. I trusted Ernesto so much that I gave him my ATM card to get $1,000 out to pay for the hospital, airport, and any other bribes I knew that I would have to pay along the way (I didn’t want them to have any reason to keep me from going home)….Ernesto went to the ATM, but our accounts had been frozen due to the suspicious transactions in Mexico….Ernesto met me at the hospital, told me this, and offered to borrow how ever much money I needed to get me home. This was a complete stranger...Jenn has since called him one of the many guardian angels that helped me during this nightmare. The hospital in Loreto was much nicer and more equipped than the hospital in Santa Rosalia. The doctor gave me the pain medication that I desperately needed, hooked me up to an IV, and performed Xrays. I was then taken back to the airport in time for the SkyMed plane to rescue me and take me home. I experienced many more challenges when I got home including surgeries and discovering I had a tumor in my right bronchi….but nothing compared to what I experienced in Mexico. I left off some more personal details, just know after my experience, I will never go back there again... I truly did not think I was going to make it back alive. If you do decide to go down to Mexico (or any other 3rd world country) please be careful....and read Jenn’s message about things you should do to protect yourself. MESSAGE FROM JENN It’s hard to believe it’s been only two weeks since this whole nightmare began. From the moment I found out Matt was in an accident in Mexico…to finding out Matt was really hurt and couldn’t get out of Mexico…to discovering that he has a tumor…..to learning that the tumor is cancerous. I keep waiting to wake up….and for everything to start getting better. I can sit here and ask myself why this is all happening to Matt….but that’s not going to help Matt get better…and it’s not going to help us FEEL better. What WILL is sharing our story and encouraging others not to drive in Mexico. Matt has loved surfing down in Mexico and has been going down there for years….he now never wants to go back again. He always told me not to worry and he’d be “safe”, but really what it comes down to is that no matter how “safe” you try to be, bad things can happen that are out of your control, and if you are in a 3rd world country like Mexico, you absolutely have to take the proper precautions to protect yourself, the people you are traveling with and your loved ones at home. Below are some precautions you should take when traveling out of the country. You might have heard these before, but we urge you to actually read them and take them to heart. • SkyMed/FlightMates.com – if you EVER have an emergency and need to get out of a country fast do not consider ANY service besides SkyMed. Working with Karen at SkyMed, Matt was able to get rescued and brought home in time. At the time, I was ready to spend millions of dollars we DIDN’T have to get Matt home…Skymed was much more rational, and worked with our insurance, customs, immigrations, the Loreto hospital, Loreto airport, etc. Thank you to everyone working at SkyMed…from Karen, to the nurses, to the pilot…we owe our lives to you. - http://www.skymed.com/ - http://www.flightmates.net/Bring as much cash as possible …if you are in an emergency situation, you do not have time to go to an ATM…and your bank could freeze your account due to the suspicious activity (this happened to Matt). You need this cash on hand to get you out of sticky situations..aka, you need to bribe your way out of sticky situations. • Purchase International service on your cell phone! You simply can not travel without being able to communicate with the U.S. in cases of emergencies. Program important numbers of people that can help you in emergencies while you are traveling, including the US Embassy, US Consulate, local doctors/hospitals, your car insurance, medical insurance etc. • Insurance, Medicare & Medicaid, Medical Evacuation: Emergency medical evacuation from a country to the U.S. can be EXPENSIVE...(approx $20k-$50k). You should review your health insurance policy before you leave the country. MOST medical insurance programs will not provide services outside of the U.S and will not cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If this is the case, purchase supplemental medical insurance that will cover you where you are traveling. Many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations. The names of some of the companies offering short-term health and emergency assistance policies are listed on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/brochures/brochures_1215.html. Be current with your immunizations before leaving the country and follow all safety precautions while in Mexico. • If driving in Mexico, you must purchase Mexican Car Insurance! Your coverage in the U.S. will NOT cover you for any accidents that happen in Mexico. Make sure the insurance you choose is dependable and you get the highest amount of coverage as possible. Matt had purchased Mexican insurance, but we are going through some major hoops to get them to cover the accident. Shocker, right? Also, if you get in an accident, do NOT leave without a copy of the police report and liability release form (the insurance will not cover the accident without this). Matt and Cove were not given this and now the mexican authorities are playing hard ball. We are probably going to have to hire a lawyer! • Register your travel plans with the State Department through a free online service at https://travelregistration.state.gov. This will help the US Consulate contact you if there is a family emergency in the U.S., or if there is a crisis where you are traveling. It’s also recommended to register with the United States Embassy and make sure that you leave a copy of your itinerary with a family member, close friend, co-worker, or neighbor. • Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws: The State Department web site at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1765.html has useful safety and other information about the countries you will visit. • Before you go, locate trustworthy Doctors and Hospitals where you are traveling and bring the contact information with you. There are many, many shady hospitals you can be taken to. If you identify hospitals along your route that are dependable, you can protect yourself from being taken advantage of. For more information, go to http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/brochures/brochures_1215.html • Leave Copies of Documents and Itinerary With Relatives in the U.S. Leave a copy of the itinerary with family or friends at home in case they need to contact you in an emergency. Make two photocopies of the passport identification page, airline tickets, driver’s license and the credit cards you plan to take. Leave one copy of each with family or friends at home, and pack the other copies separately from the originals. Leave a copy of the serial numbers of your travelers’ checks with a friend or relative at home. Carry your copy with you in a separate place and, as you cash the checks, cross them off the list. For information about emergency assistance to Americans in trouble abroad, see http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1205.html#general#general. In addition, note the following information for assistance in emergencies: • Finding a hospital or doctor abroad: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1195.html • Victims of crime: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1748.html. • Financial emergencies or destitution: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1198.html • Obtaining funds from the U.S. (OCS trust): http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/brochures/brochures_1224.html • Missing persons: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1195.html • Arrests: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1199.html • Deaths: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1205.html#death • Passport replacement: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1197.html How to Contact the Embassy or the State Department in an Emergency Consular duty personnel are available for emergency assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at U.S. embassies, consulates, and consular agencies overseas and in Washington, D.C. To contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in the U.S. call 1-888-407-4747 (during business hours) or 202-647-5225 (after hours). Contact information for U.S. embassies, consulates, and consular agencies overseas may be found at http://www.state.gov/countries. When the family of an American traveler needs to reach him or her because of an emergency at home or because family members are worried about the traveler’s welfare, they should call 1-888-407-4747. The State Department will relay the message to the consular officers in the country in which the traveler is thought to be, and the consular officers will try to locate the traveler, pass on urgent messages, and, consistent with the Privacy Act, report back to the inquiring family.  
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