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We became an Expat Family, as Seen on Elephant Journal

Wow…

I check in with this every so often…74.1k views and 12.8k shares later, our story seems to continue to make its rounds.

Thank you Elephant Journal for the feature. 

Originally written in April of 2015…

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After my last post “The Story of Us & How Mexico Has Changed Our Destiny Forever”, I spent the next several weeks very focused on creating, editing and finishing my article for Elephant Journal

Writing for a specific audience and platform outside of the known landscape of my blog is very different. Honestly, it was very challenging to stay within a defined word count and needing to “trim it down” and “hone in on my message”.

You see, an individual piece within the context of my blog has a definite continuity and thread tying one story to another…a certain cohesive chronology and relationship between the pieces. Standing alone, without the backdrop of my blog as a whole to support, compliment and fill in any intentional or incidental gaps…well, it’s just very different.

And my pictures tell their own story. Together with the written word, they lend enhanced imagery to the written word. Knowing that not all of the photos that I submitted with the piece would be published made getting the words down just right even more challenging.

Lastly, having a piece accepted for publication by Elephant Journal also means granting them editorial rights…a little unnerving to think of having my voice and style tweaked a bit, but it was a chance I was willing to take. I was not about to miss this opportunity to be published on such a solid, well-known platform as Elephant Journal, what with a readership of over 17 million a month!

After much thought, reflection, editing, taking a break and then coming back to do it all over again, I at last finished my article and pushed send when we were vacationing in the Yucatan during Semana Santa. The next day I heard back from the editor that they were indeed accepting it for publication! Woohooo! A Big Happy Dance broke out amongst The O’Gradys! 

Having my work featured on Elephant Journal was a game changer. To date, there have been over 74,000 views of my article “We became an Expat Family“. Not bad for a first-timer. The increased exposure has been great, creating a broadened connection with other like-minded wanderlust souls looking for (or already living) a life outside of the box and on their own terms in Mexico or elsewhere in this big, diverse world.

The majority of feedback from readers has been positive, encouraging, kind, supportive. 

Surprising (but to be expected, I suppose) was the small cast of negative nellies that felt compelled to stand in judgment of– with their chosen interpretation (or misinterpretation as it may be)– of somebody else’s life. You can see for yourself on the long comment thread below the EJ article itself. This was eye-opening and skin thickening, for sure, however, I learned long ago that “you spot what you got”. People will interpret, judge, make assumptions or conclusions based on their own personal circumstances, dispositions, life-outlooks, and experiences.

Ultimately, all that really matters is living a life of integrity and honesty, standing in truth, and being proud to do so.

I am. We are.

Saludos de Los O’Gradys in Mexico.

To see the full article on Elephant Journal, please click here: We became an Expat Family

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Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Thanks to creating a radical change in our family’s lives, we no longer live under this paradigm of life in a 21st-century modern society.

I can remember being STUCK in traffic—more often than not—anxiously and impatiently tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, moving along inch by inch, so fed up with that being the “norm”, knowing in my heart that it didn’t have to be and feeling so READY for a change.  

The picture above represents so much of what we were ready to eliminate in our lives—breathing in exhaust fumes, missing out on active, joyful engagement in life because we were on hold in a sea of cars. That was not how we wanted to spend our valuable, once-in-a-lifetime time. I would take pictures from the dashboard of my car to the hundreds of bumpers in front and send them to my husband with the message, “One thing I will NOT miss”.

And I don’t, not one little bit. 

Immigration to Mexico

Since immigrating to Mexico in 2012, we have gone from daily traffic congestion and the frequent witnessing of road rage to driving on jungle roads and 16th-century cobblestone streets. We have traded in mind-numbing, lost hours in the car to engagement in other, far more meaningful activities of our choice. 

If one of my jobs as a Mother is to support and nurture the emotional well-being and development of my children, then moving to Mexico has been one great step in supporting that endeavor.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Freedom and Horses in San Pancho, Nayarit

 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

A Dream Birthday Party!

We immigrated to mainland Mexico when our twins were eight years old, during the middle of their third-grade year. Within three months of our arrival, we became Permanent Residents of Mexico. The process went rather smoothly for us because we did our homework prior to our move and had all of our required paperwork in order. Patience, planning and having the right legal liaison were in our favor as well. (*for a referral in the Puerto Vallarta and San Miguel areas, feel free to PM me)

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Arrival in LA Bay and ready for some tacos!

Baja California

Our twins were seasoned Mexico travelers prior to our move, having spent the first eight years of their lives adventuring back and forth between San Diego and Baja California. Frank’s firefighter schedule and my school teacher’s allowed us blocks of time off together as a family and we took full advantage of them to head South!

Mairead and Liam fondly referred to their Baja home as their “other home” and Mexico forever became ingrained in their hearts as a place of fun, discovery and family connection. 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Adventuring in Baja, 2006

 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Baja Babies! Bahia de Los Angeles~2008

Departure Day

Aside from the inevitable emotion of parting ways with loved ones, our move and the preparations leading up to our departure from San Diego were relatively seamless in the sense that it was meant to be and something we collectively were all on the same page about and ready for

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Saying our goodbyes to my Mom at San Diego airport~2012

We arrived in San Pancho on a Friday, and that following Monday our formerly homeschooled twins began their first ever five-day-a-week program at Escuela del Mundo. Surrounded by tropical trees and open green space, our children experienced freedom and discovery like never before.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

1st day at Escuela del Mundo

While the Spanish immersion component of their new school was a bit of an initial challenge for The Reds, they transitioned and acclimated rather quickly, having been exposed to Spanish in a border city the first eight years of their life. Even without those language advantages, we all know how sponge-like children’s brains are, and if given the opportunity, they are able to assimilate and adapt with great ease. I do believe they were the only ‘Mairead’ and ‘Liam’ their classmates had ever met, but their new friends and teachers warmly accepted them and made great efforts at learning and pronouncing their unique, Celtic names.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Liam making new friends at Escuela del Mundo~2012

From San Pancho to Sayulita

After Escuela del Mundo in San Pancho, they went to Costa Verde International in Sayulita, Nayarit—a neighboring village just 10 minutes down the main jungle road, famous for its bohemian, surfing culture. Moving to another school was indeed another change and adjustment for our children, but one that they embraced wholeheartedly with the amazing, trusting, positive attitudes that they approach most things in life with.

Located a few blocks from the beach, Costa Verde is a bilingual, multi-cultural school that focuses on environmental sustainability and the advancement of ecological responsibility in Mexico…and surfing! In fact, it was part of their PE program!

Mairead and Liam continued to explore, discover and develop their own sense of community and connection within the larger context of their family’s move and immigration to Mexico. Their language skills progressed and improved to where at this point, a year or so into our move, they could flip back and forth between English and Spanish with great ease.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

4th Grade at Costa Verde, Sayulita

From Coastal Mexico to Central Mexico

After a year and a half of coastal jungle living, we were ready to experience another part of Mexico and set our compasses on something completely different. Sight unseen but with lots of research, we chose San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country—the birthplace of Miguel Ignacio Allende, one of the leaders of the insurgent army during Mexico’s War of Independence. San Miguel de Allende was the first municipality to be declared independent from Spanish rule, and as such, life here is steeped in history, culture, national pride and one festivity after another

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

La Parroquía, San Miguel de Allende

 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

School field trip to Cañada de la Boca!

Our children are developing their mental and physical capacities in a loving, nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment of freedom and growth, with two hands-on parents who are no longer trying to keep their heads above water in the rat race.

A Life Without Limits

They see a life without limits, that anything is possible, that dreams do come true, that carving one’s own way in this diverse world is not just possible, but doable. Our children have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from teacher and firefighter to Writer/Relocation Consultant and Photovoltaic Designer. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners of this world, interacting and learning with not only Mexican Nationals but also with many other adventure-driven families from various parts of this globe.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

My son Liam volunteering at a rural school outside of San Miguel de Allende

From San Diego to Mexico, we embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives south of the border and give thanks daily for Mexico and her people’s warmth, hospitality, graciousness, and generosity…for welcoming and adopting us O’Gradys and allowing us to feel at home in our new land.

May the adventures continue!

~Katie

From My Retired Firefighter Hubby, Frank: Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father’s Perspective

*Please protect yourselves and your loved ones with carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety: Kiddie

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Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Two years ago this April we took our children to their long-awaited and much anticipated 6th grade camp in a rural community outside of Guadalajara. We wished them a wonderful time, smothered them in hugs and kisses and told them we would be back on Monday afternoon.

My husband Frank and I were excited for them and for us as we were going to have ourselves an adventure-filled weekend in nearby Lake Chapala, an area of Mexico we had yet to discover.

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

6th Grade Camp Drop-Off

Take TripAdvisor Reviews with A Grain of Salt

After extensive research on TripAdvisor as to what were the best hotels in the Lake Chapala area, we chose Hotel Villa San Francisco. Looking at their five-star ratings, we certainly didn’t see anything that would make us question the legitimacy of it being a safe place us to stay. (Subsequent to Frank’s CO poisoning, TripAdvisor kept taking down our first-hand accounts of the incident. After multiple re-submissions with supporting proof, they atlast left it up.)

We reserved a terraza room with a view of the lake, but at the last minute, the manager notified us that due to overbooking they would need to relocate us to a different, ground-level room (Barroca) for Thursday and Friday night and then again move us to the owner’s personal home/Airbnb Villa Wilshire in Ajijic for Saturday night. 

Being that it was labor day weekend and that we could not find any other available rooms in either Lake Chapala nor nearby Ajijic, we agreed to these various changes to secure a reservation.

After dinner that first night, Frank and I returned to the hotel to get some much-needed rest after our five-hour drive from Nayarit. Although we were very much looking forward to a hot shower before calling it a night, there was no hot water and so a quick cold one it was. The following morning, Frank showered prior to breakfast and still, no hot water. 

We Informed Management

It was here at breakfast on Friday morning when we notified the manager Jorge of the lack of hot water in our room. He told us that “the wind had blown out the hot water heater the night before”, that they would “light it and monitor it throughout the day” and that they had been, “having problems with it”.

We were not particularly smitten with this Barroca Room that they had bumped us to—not just because there was no hot water but because it was dark, dirty and had a foul smell coming from the shower—so we had asked the receptionist for them to please move us to a different room if it became available.

Frank and I had breakfast together this Friday morning, enjoying our time together, grateful that our children were nearby at their camp enjoying themselves. It is painful for me to look at the following picture, knowing that it could have been our last meal together.

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Breakfast @ Hotel Villa San Francisco

After breakfast we returned to the room so I could pack up our belongings (in anticipation of our room change) while Frank got caught up on some work.

For the next three hours, Frank worked at this a window-side table while I showered and then alternated packing up our belongings and resting on the bed as I was coming down with a sore throat, burning eyes and a headache. 

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Malfunctioning Water Heater on Other Side of Window

While we were at breakfast, after having spoken with the manager Jorge, someone came to reignite the hot water heater for when I turned on the shower to hot, Frank–working next to the window where just on the other side was a hot water heater–heard it “kick in” and called out to me telling me so and yes, I now had hot water. 

It was at this point, with the malfunctioning hot water heater now ignited, that the activation and expelling of the carbon monoxide poisonous gases began. As Frank was sitting literally to the side of and above the water heater (no more than a foot away), he was inhaling these CO fumes for 3 hours. 

Thank God we didn’t ask to have the heater checked the night before as the outcome would certainly have been far worse for both Frank and I after a full night of breathing in the carbon monoxide as we slept. Thank God our children were not with us. 

I told Frank that we should go wait outside in the garden while they finished the cleaning of the room we were to be moved to, that I was tired of being in a dark room on a bright sunny day, and feeling like I needed fresh air. Our bags were all packed and we were ready to move them into the courtyard.

When Frank stood up from this table where he had been working, he collapsed onto the bed, stating that he was having severe visual disturbances, nausea and a headache. His eyes were rapidly moving side to side and he was having great difficulty focusing and responding to me.

Needless to say, I was terrified, not having any idea what was occurring other than that it was very serious.

Was he having a heart attack? Was he having a stroke? He had no chest pain and he was not exhibiting any of the symptoms of a stroke…the strength in his hands was equal on both sides and his mouth was symmetrical. What could be happening?

Red Cross Arrives

I ran out to the hotel lobby and asked the front desk staff to call for emergency help. Running back and forth between the room to check on Frank and to the lobby to see if an ambulance had arrived yet, Frank’s symptoms continued to worsen. He was turning a grey/white color and losing consciousness. When the Red Cross arrived to the room and took his blood pressure, it was 190 over 90.

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Red Cross Transport to Guadalajara

With the Red Cross medics getting Frank on the gurney, and me grabbing any of our valuables that I could carry, I went to the table where Frank had been sitting to get his laptop and saw right outside the window, an on the ground, hot water heater—hissing and spewing yellow/orange colored flames. I called this out to Frank as we were leaving the room, “Oh my God Honey, there is a water heater right under where you were sitting with yellow/orange flames!”

Once at the Red Cross in Lake Chapala, I phoned Hotel Villa San Francisco, asking to speak to the manager Jorge but was told that he was not available. I told the employee that answered the phone about my having just seen this yellow/orange flame spewing water heater and that I suspected that it was the cause of Frank’s condition.

Hotel Villa San Francisco’s Lack of Responsiveness

This Hotel Villa San Francisco employee CONFIRMED to me during this phone conversation that TWO CARBON MONOXIDE LEAKS had been found by the person that had just come out to look at it.

I asked them to please send someone from the Villa right away to the Red Cross to explain this to the doctor that was treating Frank, but no one from Hotel Villa San Francisco ever showed up. In fact, in the first 30 hours post carbon monoxide poisoning at Hotel Villa San Francisco, in spite of my multiple phone calls and emails amidst managing the critical care of my husband, NO ONE—not the manager nor the owners of Hotel Villa San Francisco responded to me nor reached out to offer a helping hand, nor to see if my husband was dead or alive. Furthermore, the rest of our belongings–2 suitcases and our car–were still at the hotel.

It was only upon my telling both the manager Jorge and the owners (whose contact information I had to hunt down through their Airbnb profile) that I would go public with our story that I received the following email from the owner on Saturday, April 29th at 8:46 p.m.:

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

First Communications from Hotel Villa San Francisco Owner

I do find it interesting that an owner of a five-star hotel that serves so many guests did not have the ability to access both our phone and email information from the management when that very information was requested upon making our reservation. 

My response to the owner on Saturday, April 29th at 10:37 p.m:

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

*when I returned to HVSF to retrieve Frank’s truck and our belongings, they had removed the small water heater

When we arrived at the Lake Chapala Red Cross via ambulance on Friday afternoon, I was not initially allowed back into the room with Frank. I asked the doctor and staff to please allow me to be by my husband’s side, that not only was he not coherent enough to speak for himself, but that I needed to translate for him and explain the chronology of circumstances that led up to his symptoms.

After the confirmation by the hotel staff that indeed two carbon monoxide leaks had been detected in the hot water heater right outside the window where Frank had been sitting for three hours, I shared this information with the Red Cross Doctor and he then allowed me to be by Frank’s side.

Confirmed Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

It all made sense. Frank’s symptoms were every symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning—visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, blood pressure issues, confusion, headache, exhaustion, difficulty hearing and responding. The confirmation by the hotel of the two CO leaks, my sighting of the yellow/orange flame water heater, Frank’s symptoms and the doctor’s diagnosis all matched up. Now we knew what we were dealing with. The Red Cross Doctor immediately ordered Frank to be transferred to a private hospital in Guadalajara.

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Lake Chapala Red Cross

On Saturday afternoon April 29, 2017 at 12:08, I sent the manager Jorge the following email:

To:[email protected]” <[email protected]>

Sent: Saturday, April 29, 2017 12:08 PM

“Buenas tardes Jorge,

Como ya saben, mi esposo Frank se intoxicó con la fuga de monóxido carbón del calentador del agua. Los médicos siguen tratando de salvarle la vida. Necesito que me mandes de inmediato los datos de los dueños para ponerme en contacto con ellos. Siguen guardando las maletas y cuidando nuestra camioneta Ford 150 que está en la calle enfrente. Paso hoy para ellos.

Katie O’Grady

Los O’Gradys in Mexico

xxx-xxx-xxxx (my cell phone)

Translation:

“Good afternoon Jorge,

As you all already know, my husband Frank was poisoned with the carbon monoxide gas leak from the hot water heater. The doctors are still working to save his life. I need you to immediately send to me the contact information of the owners so I can be in contact with them. Continue keeping the suitcases and an eye out for our Ford 150 that is on the street in front. I will come today for them.”

When I arrived at the hotel on this Saturday, I walked into Room Barroca to double check that none of our personal items were left behind, and guess what? They had removed the hot water heater that had been directly below the window just a day before. Gone, no longer there. 

Jorge and various other staff members were sitting in the courtyard right outside the Barroca Room, perhaps waiting for my arrival since I had notified Jorge that I would be coming up, and not one of them acknowledged what had happened, inquired as to whether or not my husband was dead or alive, offered an apology nor expressed any concern. Nothing.

I opened our suitcases to make sure everything was there and asked them to make a copy of our reservation showing that we had in fact stayed in and paid for that one night in Room Barroca.

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

On Sunday, Apr 30 at 11:44 AM I received this message from who I am assuming to be Jorge since it was written in Spanish and came directly from the same email address he had used to correspond with me previously during the reservation process.

“Buenos dias.

Por favor acepte mis disculpas por todas las molestias incluyendo la demora a su contestacion, pero le aseguro que estamos muy preocupados, pero hemos estado ocupados realizando nuestras propios inspecciones e investigaciones con el fin de encontrar una explicacion a esto, le aseguro que nos comunicaremos con usted tan pronto nos sea posible.

Elegancia en la Ribera de Chapala

Hotel Villa San Francisco agradece su preferencia”

Translation:

“Please accept my apologies for all of the bother including the delay in response to you, but I assure you that we are very concerned, but we have been busy doing our own inspections and investigations with the point of finding an explanation to this, I assure you that we will be in touch with you the soonest possible.”

On Monday, May 1, 2017 4:41 pm I heard from Anthony, one of the owners:

“Dear Katie,

You very much do deserve to be treated as kindly and as efficiently as possible, and I do acknowledge that it may not seem that that has been the case.  However, you may be assured that everything possible has been done from the perspective of the hotel. A huge part of the challenge has been that we are out of the country, and we are dealing with the cancer death of a close family member who was too young to have died.  This, plus other stresses too involved to detail here, have made things extra difficult. Further, being a holiday weekend in Mexico has made it especially difficult to get professional assistance.

That said, our main problem was the issue of carbon monoxide poisoning itself.  Given that we take great care to maintain our systems at full operating efficiency, I was quite stunned to learn of your husband’s apparent difficulty. It was only last month that we spent $6500 doing regular boiler maintenance, and replaced regulators, and did thorough cleanings. And in fact, in over 2000 nights of operations, with therefore 20,000 room nights of guests, such an issue has never once occurred. Furthermore, the boiler is many feet to the side of the window, and is in the complete open air, and in fact is operating perfectly, at least as far as Proteccion Civil has confirmed on being immediately asked to inspect on Friday.  Please understand that your use of the words “gross negligence” feels exceptionally harsh when measured against our actions, both recent and in the immediate aftermath of your husband’s very unfortunate incident.

You indicated that the water heater was suddenly “moved” by us! I can assure you that absolutely nothing was ever moved. It was placed there years ago, and is still there.

Katie, I am as anxious as you to be sure of what happened, but please understand that while my sympathy could not be greater, my genuine concern over the cause remains.  We are continuing to investigate, but it will be difficult during the holiday weekend.

I shall contact you when I have further information.  In the meantime,

Kind regards,

Anthony

My response to male owner on Monday, May 1, 2017 7:42 pm

“Hello Anthony,

Thank you for responding.

The fact of the matter is, there WAS a much smaller, gurgling, spitting, malfunctioning with orange flames single unit hot water heater directly outside the Barroca window looking DOWN directly onto the ground, NOT the one to the left where the larger hot water heater is.

When we checked in on Thursday night April 27, 2017 there was no hot water in the Barroca shower nor the following morning of April 28, 2017 when my husband showered prior to 10 a.m.

In fact, the condition of the Barroca room when we first entered, with hair on the bathroom floor not our own, an old failing mirror with poor visibility, run down shower doors and a foul smell from the shower, made us wonder if the room was only used for emergency over bookings or for your staff and therefore not maintained in a public rental standard.

We left the Barroca room for breakfast on the veranda on the morning of 4-28-17 where we spoke to Jorge about the cold evening and morning shower who stated that ‘”the wind had blown the pilot out” and that they would be “monitoring it throughout the day”….monitoring, not having an authorized technician check and fix it. He said he would keep us informed.

He then went into a lengthy explanation as to how the hot water would take a very very long time to get back to the Safari room where we were to be transferred to as soon as it was ready post cleaning.

We assured him we would rather have SOME hot water than NO hot water.

Jorge was doing his best to convince us to stay in Barroca but we assured him we wanted to be moved to a different room even if that meant we would literally be moving every single day of our 4 night stay due to the complications of overbooking on the part of your staff.

One of these nights was to be at your Villa Wilshire where we were told we would be placed on the terraza level, but again, due to overbooking, were moved to a ground level room.

We were offered a full breakfast instead of the continental and a reduced fee for our last night in Hollywood if we were to agree to the multiple room changes which we did.

Jorge went on to tell us about how he and his wife live in the back and that if she was doing dishes, there might not be hot water or that it could take up to 20 minutes for the hot water to get there and other various comments about hot water issues on site.

The 2 gentleman clients sitting at another table came up to assure us, in spite of Jorge’s narrative about the limited and long taking hot water in the Safari room, that in fact they had had plenty of hot water during their stay in Safari.

After breakfast, we went directly back to Barroca. When I turned on the shower to take my shower, my husband HEARD the small hot water heater ignite and begin to heat, as he was sitting right next to it at the table and window.

I then alternated between packing up our items and resting on the bed on the opposite side of the room/window under the ceiling fan.

My husband Frank did not move from the small table by the window where he worked on his laptop for nearly 3 hours, thus getting a direct hit from the carbon monoxide fumes coming in through the window.

When I phoned the Villa from the Red Cross on Friday April 28, 2017 at 3:28 pm, the male hotel representative that I spoke to on shift CONFIRMED that TWO carbon monoxide leaks had been found in the water heater and that they “had fixed it”.

I suppose the entire removal of the water heater constituted “fixing it”..???

I pleaded that they send someone from the villa to the Red Cross but NO ONE showed up. I was told during that phone call that Jorge was not on site, that he had gone to Guadalajara.

It is insignificant to me that this has not occurred in your previous 20,000 guests. What is significant to me is that this did happen to my husband.

Perhaps your manager Jorge can explain to you what alterations or problems they were having with this now removed small water heater when you were not in the country.

Lastly, there were NO actions taken in the “immediate aftermath” by you, Roseann, Jorge nor anyone representing Villa San Francisco. In fact MORE than 30 hours had passed when I finally heard from Roseann after stating to she and Jorge via email that I would bring our story to social media to inform and hopefully protect others.

With your being out of the country during the time of this incident, perhaps you are not aware of whatever modifications your manager Jorge did or did not do and/or communicate to you.

That is your responsibility as the owner.

I have provided you with sufficient information.

Tomorrow when I am more rested from this trauma I will put together the rest of the paperwork including copies of all expenses up to date.

Katie & Frank O’Grady

Los O’Gradys in Mexico”

On Monday, May 1, 2017 6:04 pm I received this from the female owner:

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

I then sent both owners on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 10:25 a.m. the following:

“Good morning Anthony & Rosann,

At any point since my husband’s carbon monoxide poisoning in room Barroca at Villa San Francisco on Friday 4-27-17 (not Saturday 4-28-17) morning, you could have obtained my email from your manager Jorge or had Jorge provide me with yours, thus not needing to go through Airbnb, clearly.

Your staff witnessed what happened and I phoned the Villa from Red Cross while there fighting to save my husband’s life.

NO ONE contacted me in the first 30 hours post incident. NO ONE!

If Jorge did not inform you until Saturday that is just unconscionable. Although your husband mentioned knowledge of it on Friday 4-28-17.

If Proteccion Civil did an inspection on Saturday, a full day later, it was on a different hot water heater, not the one that nearly caused my husband his life.

The one with the carbon monoxide leak had been removed from where it originally was, directly below the Barroca only window.

It was there on Friday when the poisoning occurred and not on Saturday when I returned to retrieve our items and car and took photos.

I’m sure Jorge could explain the removal of the offending water heater.

While your own health challenges and the loss of a family member are unfortunate and a priority to you, you and your husband have an ultimate priority as business owners operating a facility that rents rooms to the public to be responsive and responsible.

“You are sorry about my husband’s health” is hardly an acknowledgment, apology nor statement of accountability.

I am attaching for now both the Red Cross and Hospital’s diagnoses of Carbon Monoxide Intoxication.

While we are not interested in going the legal route at this point, we are interested in a formal apology and recuperation of all of our expenses including the one night at Villa San Francisco resulting from this nightmare.

Katie & Frank O’Grady”

*sent with the following four attachments taken by my phone while still in Guadalajara:

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Red Cross Treatment & Diagnosis: “Toxic Substance & Inhalation of Carbon Monoxide”

 

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Hospital Diagnosis of Carbon Monoxide Intoxication

 

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Hospital Oxygen Therapy for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

 

Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Treatment

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Receipt for Hyperbaric Chamber Treatment for Carbon Monoxide Intoxication

I then sent the owners of Hotel Villa San Francisco the receipt with letterhead from the Doctor of the hyperbaric chamber facility where Frank received two 90 minute sessions.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017 @ 2:12 p.m.

“Anthony & Roseann,

Attached please find the receipt for the two hyperbaric chamber treatments my husband Frank O’Grady received to aid in the detoxing of his body from the carbon monoxide poisoning that occurred at your Villa San Francisco in Lake Chapala on Friday, April 28, 2017.

I will be sending the other various receipts of charges incurred to save his life in subsequent emails.

Katie O’Grady”

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Receipt from Doctor from Hyperbaric Chamber Facility in Guadalajara

 

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

First of Two Hyperbaric Chamber Treatments

 

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

High-Pressured Systemic Oxygen Treatment

 

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

#2 of 2 Hyperbaric Treatments in Guadalajara

Just Do The Right Thing

I have heard nothing else from the owners nor the management beyond what I have shared here.

My belief is that as a result of it being a busy labor day holiday weekend and their being overbooked, that they connected this small, temporary, and obviously malfunctioning water heater up to the outside of Room Barroca so as to not have a larger demand on the other water heater(s).

Clearly, only the manager Jorge and the owners of Hotel Villa San Francisco can speak to this addition/modification—a deadly one that almost cost my husband his life.

Now 9 days post poisoning, Frank continues to detox from the effects of the carbon monoxide. He will have a couple of more hyperbaric chamber treatments and follow up tests in the hopes that there are no long-term consequences.

Needless to say, we will now be traveling with portable carbon monoxide detectors and advocating for others to do so too.

Giving thanks for this precious, fragile life…

I am grateful that I did not have to pick those babies of ours up from their 6th-grade camp on Monday without their Daddy.

Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

Praying for Frank’s Life

A simple and affordable installation of a Carbon Monoxide Detector in the hotel room could have prevented all of this.

Click here for the one we use for home and travel protection.

~Katie O’Grady

*Feel free to share our story, in the hopes of saving just one life. Information is power. Information is protection. 

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Other Platforms Sharing The Importance of Carbon Monoxide Awareness:

Project Shout

Mapping Megan: Portable Carbon Monoxide Detectors Save Lives, Don’t Travel Without One

*Disclaimer: this article contains affiliate links for products we use. The price is the same whether you use our affiliate link or not. If we haven’t spent our own money on it and loved it, you won’t see an affiliate link for it here. 

 

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While Mexico has been home to us for the past six years, we O’Gradys also have our wanderlust sights on other countries, not only for family travel, but also for a potential relocation when our teenage twins are in college…something that seems to be just around the corner with time traveling like the speed of light!

All great plans begin with an idea, and lots and lots of research!

We have decided to partner with some reputable travel brands as part of our own process of discovery and will be sharing some of the information with you all– just in case you too might get an inkling to explore beyond!

If you are a hiking enthusiast, you likely want to hunt down the best trails in the world. If you find yourself out of places to visit, this list will give you an idea of some of the most exotic hiking destinations around the world.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is the world’s up and coming hot travel destination; laced with stunning beaches, incredible luxury accommodation and hiking trails, both casual and more extreme, fit for every type of traveler. One of the most popular hiking spots in the country is Ella Rock in Ella town. It’s about 1000 meters high above the sea level. When hiking here, it’s best that you start early to avoid the crowd.

You can also drop by Adam’s Peak while in Ella town. While here, you can enjoy the sights on top of the town’s mountaintops, overlooking the vast tea plantations below.

Top Exotic Hiking Destinations

Cambodia

Be one with nature as you hike in Cambodia’s Kalai Jungle, starting your trek in a village and then venturing out into the rich, surrounding forest. Here, you can make campsites to rest while listening to the sounds of nature all around you.

For those who are interested in history, you can also incorporate it with hiking. Visit the River of a Thousand Lingas in this exotic destination. Once you’ve overcome the steep trail, you can witness one of the most historical and spiritual places in the area – a flowing river and landmark with ancient religious carvings on the river bed.

Top Exotic Hiking Destinations

Indonesia

In East Java, you can marvel at the grand Ijen Volcano. With its turquoise waters, the crater shines wonderfully as you stand on top of the 9,183 ft. volcano. Hiking here will surely be worth it. However, as a warning, the blue flames emitted from the cracks are poisonous so don’t go near them.

Top Exotic Hiking Destinations

Cuba

Fourth on the list is Cuba. While this country is mainly known for its pristine beaches, it is not lacking in some of the best hiking trails around. There a huge array of things to experience in Cuba. To get you started, go on a short hike in Sierra Escambray. Here, you can opt to go to El Cubano where your hiking trail will lead you to a waterfall or to La Codina where you can walk around in a vast hacienda and enjoy a rustic lunch while enjoying the scenery.

Australia

Last on our list is Australia’s great hiking trails. For long hikes, one can go to Tasmania’s Overland Track. It’s 65 kilometers long and can be toured for over 6 days. You can hike around the Cradle Mountain-Lake in St. Clair National Park – a renowned world heritage site in the area. One can hike independently here, but due to its vastness, you must book yourself in at  the Parks & Wildlife Service or get an operator guide to help you navigate the terrain.   

These are just some of the many exotic and adventurous hiking trails available to you around the world. If you’re out of ideas, why not try one of these top destinations for your next hiking adventure! 

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*When traveling (and at home), please protect yourself and your loved ones with a portable carbon monoxide detector.*

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Six years ago today I celebrated my 44th birthday by boarding a plane with my eight-year-old twins on a one-way ticket to Mexico.

My husband Frank had left a few days prior by car with our slobbering chocolate lab Seamus and 14-foot aluminum boat filled to the rim with the belongings that had made the final cut.

Retired Firefighter, Mexico Bound!

Frank will have to tell the story of how he did the entire 1400 mile trip without a map…something about just heading south!

We left with hopes and dreams for a better life for our family.

As we celebrate our six-year Mexi-versary and my 50th, we pause to reflect over some of the lessons we have learned in our adopted country of Mexico:

1. Savor The Moment

In the land of “mañana” (tomorrow) there is a palpable beckoning and invitation to slow down and take it all in. The vibrant colors and sensory-rich nature of a quintessential Mexican town—alive with energy from the vendors, music, sights and smells—make it nearly impossible to not linger in the magic of the moment.

Birria @ Mercado Emiliano Zapata, Old Town Puerto Vallarta

Birria @ Mercado Emiliano Zapata, Old Town Puerto Vallarta

2. Be Proud

Mexico sets the example of a culture that embraces its history and honors its national pride, of a people that value their identities and honor their roots. I love how Mexico celebrates who she is with intention and meaning. 

Dancers in Banda

Christmas Celebration in Banda~Rural Community Outside of SMA

3. Celebrate, Whenever You Can

Dia de los muertos

Día de Los Muertos @ La Parroquía in San Miguel de Allende

Wedding Celebration in the state of Guanajuato

Wedding Celebration in the state of Guanajuato

4. Be Curious, Have Fun

In Mexico, I am allured, intrigued, invited to stop and look, to be in the moment. With my senses awake, I am tuned in to the details and the magic of my surroundings. 

Just running a few errands in SMA

Just running a few errands in SMA

Mexico has taught me to celebrate the textures and layers, to pay attention, to notice…to be participatory and present in life.

Los Mariachis

Los Mariachis

5. Live in Freedom & Responsibility

There is a certain aspect of “organized chaos” on the streets of Mexico—families of four piled atop a motorcycle, off-leash dogs dodging in and out of traffic, police officers standing in the middle of busy four-way intersections—a cacophony of sights, smells, and sounds emerging from the outdoor markets, corner cantinas, garbage trucks, city buses and street vendors. Some would call this Darwinism, perhaps even a lawless and haphazard way to live…I just call it cultural immersion!

A Life in Color

A Life in Color

6. Honor Thy Family, Community & Friends

O'Grady Strong

O’Grady Strong

I love the importance placed on the family unit, including the extended one of second and third cousins—not always necessarily blood-related.

A very good friend is often referred to as a primo (cousin) or hermano/a (brother/sister) and they are taken into the family as such. Conversations at gatherings and casual run-ins are meaningful and sin prisa (without hurry). The art of conversation is well preserved in the Mexican culture. Greetings and farewells? You can count on a customary hug and single kiss on the cheek between young and old, male and female alike.

There is a strong sense of community and connectedness amongst the Mexican people. They are united, loyal, hard-working, welcoming and generous of their time and help. 

7. Live Sustainably

Street Tacos

Our Reds enjoying ten-peso street tacos on a Friday night!

10-peso street tacos, 20-peso super-sized fresh fruit cups, 100-peso chicken rotisserie dinners complete with tortillas, rice, salad and grilled peppers…With the current value of the peso to the dollar about 19 to 1, you can calculate the amazing value!

Fruit Cups

Less than a dollar fifty for one of these delicious fruit cups!

There is never a shortage of fresh, locally grown produce, meats, cheeses, wines and breads…and many, thankfully organic.

Via Organica

Vía Orgánica, San Miguel de Allende

8. Pay Attention, Be Grateful

This was not meant to be a promo for Coca-Cola, but I love this capture of a cowboy with horse, taking it all in at the jardín in San Miguel de Allende. 

Coca-Cola

Break Time at The Parroquía

From the jungle to the desert highlands and back again to the coast, I have thousands of pictures of our immigrated lives that capture, as they say, a story within a single image.

I am grateful that I live in a country that provides plenty of sensory-stimulating experiences and that I get to share some of them with an audience who appreciates my work. Muchas Gracias.

And what about you?

What are some of your favorite things about Mexico?

I would love to hear about them in the comments section below!

Cheers,

~Katie

Would you like to read more about our immigrated lives to Mexico?

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*all photos by Katie O’Grady

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