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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 bottleneck traffic. That was not how we wanted to spend our precious, once-in-a-lifetime time. I would take pictures from the dashboard of my car to the sea 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. 

Our 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 far more meaningful activities of our choice. 

If one of my jobs as a Mother is to facilitate 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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Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

 “To call him a dog hardly seems to do him justice, though inasmuch as he had four legs, a tail, and barked, I admit he was, to all outward appearances. But to those who knew him well, he was a perfect gentleman.” ~Hermione Gingold

 

Similar to a few of my other difficult-to-write pieces–Until Death Do We Part , I Had Spinal Surgery in Mexico and Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide, this one will be hard, if not heartbreaking, for me to put into print.

But I must.

I owe it to Seamus, to our family and to our children to honor his memory and legacy, to memorialize this sentient being that was so much more than “just a dog”…to tell his story.

The feelings of profound sadness and loss don’t go away on their own. Expressing them with the written word is one of the ways in which I choose to process through them…to journey through the waves of deep mourning to arrive to where only memories of laughter, adventure, kisses and warm, furry snuggles remain. 

This is my tribute to you, Seamies…

Famous Seamus

Our three-year-old twins Mairead and Liam were just starting to sleep through the night when my husband Frank surprised me with the grandest 38th birthday gift of all–a puppy! Working as a firefighter and away from home for days and sometimes weeks on end, he wanted to bring a gentle dog with a big bark into our family.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

A New Friend

Living in San Diego at the time, we traveled up to Bonsall for the four required visits, until at last, at 9-weeks old, we were able to bring Seamus home to begin his life as an O’Grady!

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Signing The Paperwork to Bring Seamus Home!

We Chose Each Other

Seamus was from a litter of nine chocolate, roly poly, running, jumping, kissing, wagging balls of labrador love. 

Famous Seamus: A Tale of A Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Pure Love, Pure Joy

Although our twins were a bit overwhelmed and cautious at first with this energetic, playful, new presence in their lives (that was almost their same size!) the three of them became the best of buddies in no time at all.

 

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Wrestle Time, Lucha Libre Style!

 

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

The Best Naps are The Ones Inside Your Pup’s Crate!

Honoring our Irish heritage and love of traditional Celtic names, ‘Seamus‘ was ever-so-fitting for this handsome, destined-to-be addition to our family. My Mother’s dinner time calls would now be “Mairead…Liam…Seamus”…

Famous Seamus: A Tale of A Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Pure Magic

They say you can approximate the adult size of a puppy by its paws. At 9 weeks old Seamus’s were huge and by 6 months he was practically full grown, knocking over everything in his path with that big tail and chewing through all of our shoes one by one.

Shoe Tug-of-War in Baja California

Seamus Immigrates to Mexico

Seamus moved to Mexico with us when he was five years old, making the four-day drive South in the back seat of our SUV, drooling the entire car ride down on the back of Frank’s neck.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

From San Diego to Puerto Vallarta!

From San Diego to San Pancho to San Miguel de Allende, to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle–with many Stateside and Baja trips in between–Seamus lived an amazingly full and adventurous life! He was a well-traveled dog with no shortage of fun and shenanigans with his human family.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Seamus Boating with His Best Buddies in the Sea of Cortez

 

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Seamus Watching His Kid’s Dance Class in San Pancho, Nayarit

 

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Seamus Taking a Stroll in The Hills of San Miguel de Allende. Guanajuato

A Gentle Giant

If you were ever lucky enough to be in the presence of this Gentle Giant, you would have known what a special, wise, kind soul he was…a noble gentleman, a comedian, a loyal playmate, a never-do-harm puppy with a heart of gold. 

Famous Seamus: A Tale of A Dog's Immigration to MexicoV

Seamus Loved to Eat Watermelon & Pumpkin!

Seamus’s favorite place in the world was the ocean. That, and being with his family…especially in the ocean.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

A Water Dog Through and Through, Baja California

 

Famous Seamus: A Tale of A Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Seamus in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit

Seamus Gets A Sister

Seamus wasn’t what one would call a lap dog (we never told him that), weighing in at 95 pounds of slobbery love! We not only wanted him to have a companion, but also for our children to experience the gift of adoption and the taking in of another sentient being.

Seamus had been an “only dog” for the first seven years of his life and while he was initially excited to have what he thought was an occasional playdate in Luna, he went through a period of acting slightly concerned with this new addition to our family, bringing me more treats and toys than normal.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Good Boy

In short order, Seamus realized that Luna had a permanent status in The O’Grady Tribe and that he now needed to share the attention, walks and pats on the head.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of A Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Famous Seamus & Luna Love Walk Through Parque Benito Juárez, San Miguel de Allende

He handled it like a gentleman and graciously welcomed Luna into his family with lots of slobbery kisses, love barks and tail chasing around our yard!

Famous Seamus: A Tale of A Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Famous Seamus & Luna Love Play Time!

What Happened?

Our sweet boy had suffered from skin ailments most his life–made worse in the jungle heat–and in the past year had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism for which he was receiving treatment. In spite of those challenges, he was a very happy, active boy…a sweet, lovable chocolate lab. While he was in his senior years at almost 12, he did not have any joint or musculature issues. In fact, on one of our recent stateside trips, Seamus had a thorough check-up including a head to toe x-ray whereupon the vet stated that he had the skeletaure of a 5-year-old dog!

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

My Sweet Boy The Sunday before Valentine’s Day

On the Sunday morning before Valentine’s Day, instead of being greeted by my normally goofy and happy pup, I found him sitting sideways at the top of our back laundry door, clearly in discomfort and not interested in eating at all.

He looked up at me with sadness in his eyes, turned away and laid his head back down. My heart skipped a beat knowing that something was seriously wrong.

I went outside to get a better look and saw that his left back leg was swollen and curled up and that he was unable to stand or walk unassisted.

What had happened???

Was he stung by a scorpion? Did he somehow fall, twist or break his leg? Was he bitten by a snake?

My mind went through all of the possibilities of what could have happened to our boy, who just one day before seemed fine on his afternoon walk. While he was slowing down, he was still mobile and always up for some playtime at the beach.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Seamus Happy at The Beach

Seeing my big, sweet boy in obvious distress and pain, trying to navigate those 95 pounds on three legs, was heartbreaking and so concerning, to say the least.

We took Seamus to the vet, fearing that our day had arrived or was soon in sight, but Dr. Jorge said to give it a few days with anti-inflammatory injections and oral meds at home. And so we did, willing to do anything to give him some more time with us–as long as it was free from pain and suffering.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Unconditional Love

Dr. Jorge ruled out any venomous poisoning or bone break, conjecturing that Seamus might have tripped and fallen and therefore perhaps sprained his leg, but to me, it seemed to be much more serious.

A Mother’s Intuition

I knew in my heart that we likely weren’t going to come out of this one on the other side with dry eyes or intact hearts, even for as much as I wanted to deny the reality right in front of us.

Over the next several days, Seamus continued to suffer and decline. His breathing became labored, he lost interest in eating, could not relieve himself without being lifted up and moved to the grass, and then he began to hemorrhage and bleed externally.

We knew it was time. Time to do only what love propels you to do. Time to do the right thing. Time to do the humane thing. Time to release Seamus from the physical condition that now held his body captive in pain with no apparent hope of improvement.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of A Dog's Immigration to Mexico

How Do You Tell Your Daughter It’s Time to Say Goodbye to Her Best Friend?

In a “perfect world” or a “best case scenario”, maybe Seamus would have passed in his sleep. But life and death are not so neat and tidy and they certainly have their own timeline.

I believe that Seamus wanted us to each have our individual and then our together time as a family to say our goodbyes, and we did.

Thank you, Seamus, for the gift of you…thank you for picking Valentine’s Day–a day of love and friendship–as your day to transition from one energy form to another. Thank you for the undeniable impact you have left on each of our hearts.

Rainbow Bridge, Valentine’s Day

I laid with Seamus throughout the day, in those last hours with my sweet boy in this realm.

I brought him warm, lavender infused towels from the dryer and sang, talked, laughed and cried with him–telling him all of the funny stories about his life as a 9-week-old puppy up to now, this very moment as my senior pup, hours before his rainbow crossing. I named all of the people and animals that loved him, each and every one by their first name. He looked at me with acknowledgment and understanding, hugged me, wrapped his paws around my arms, smiled, snorted and slobbered with all the energy he could muster up. Noble and gallant to the very end.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Time Together…

I asked Frank to bring home the largest bone he could find, but Seamus was not interested in it at all.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of A Dog's Immigration to Mexico

My Boy Letting Me Know It Was Time

We picked our children up after school, came home to get Seamus, and the five of us drove to the vet’s office for our 4:00 appointment.

To say that the next few hours were excruciatingly painful and very emotional for our family would be an understatement.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of A Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Stand by Me

From my husband Frank’s Facebook Post:

Our dog Seamus had to leave us this afternoon.
If there were ever a dog to represent unconditional love he was it.
He taught me many lessons regarding being happy in a moment. I do and will miss him mightily. 
I hear the ocean outside my window, and I feel his physical absence palpably…but, I know he is free from that pain he tolerated with no complaint and he is happy and at peace.
He grew up with my babies, he was one of our babies, he was part of our O’Grady Tribe. I am so grateful to be part of a family that stayed with him until the end, grateful to Dr. Jorge at Pets and Vets in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for his sincere compassion and care and his tenderness not only with Seamus but with us.
My hope is that we can all carry forward a bit some love, tolerance and compassion in this oftentimes hard world we live in. I have to say that I marvel at the strength of our children.
They were with Seamus until the end…laying with him on the floor of the vet’s office, giving him their hearts and love with hugs, petting and no shortage of tears until well after his heart stopped beating.
Seamus died literally surrounded with love and touches…and touches and love were what he lived for.
My family, Seamus included, give me reason to marvel every day.
It is beautiful outside and I will reflect on Seamus’ life, my children, Liam and Mairead, my amazing wife Katie and us as the family we are often throughout this day.
Peace and love to all of you.”

We had Seamus cremated and released his ashes into the ocean blue, his favorite playground.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of A Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Farewell Our Sweet Boy

On this particular day, in this particular spot, there were whales and dolphins gathered together, splashing and playing around. Seamus would be in good company here.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Seamus, you will always be our Gentle Giant, our Guardian Angel.

Famous Seamus: A Tale of a Dog's Immigration to Mexico

My Daughter Mairead Honoring & Returning Her Pup to His Favorite Playground

The Cycle of Life

The life and and death of our Famous Seamus is a powerful reminder of the transient nature of life, that all things have their time and place…their beginning and their end. Life is a precious and fragile gift.

That same puppy face that we saw the first day we met Seamus in 2007 was the very same puppy face we kissed goodbye as Seamus took his last breath on Valentine’s Day, 2019.

“Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears,
but laugh and talk to me as if I were
beside you.
I loved you so…
‘Twas heaven here with you.”

~Isla Paschal Richardson

Love hurts. Love extracts her price. But she also gives, tenfold. Love stretches our hearts in ways unimaginable, changes the mosaic of who we are for the better, if we consciously allow it to.

Lucky are we to experience it in its fullest, most unconditional form. 

RIP my King. We love you forever and a day…

 

Seamus & Frank at pool
Mairead and Seamus Baja
SEAMUS & MAIREAD HUGGING 2
Seamus & Liam San Pancho
Mairead & Seamus with Fish Baja
BOYS BEST FRIEND
walking Seamus in Ensenada
Seamus BAJA Playing with Cojo 4
Family photo Xmas 2018 1

 

*I have been receiving an amazing amount of feedback to this article, including the sharing with me of this story that got the waterworks going all over again: The Dog Who Means Nothing to Me

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Even after six years as permanent residents of Mexico, there are certain parts of our lives here–some of the cultural and regional norms and facets of day-to-day living–that still cause me to pause, laugh, or even gasp in intrigue and bewilderment. 

Take for example:

1. Three lanes on a two-lane highway

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Navigating oneself on the highways often feels like a game of Russian roulette, as there seems to be a nebulous middle lane, created and bordered by nothing more than the driver’s risk-taking spirit and willingness to tempt fate.

Riding as a passenger usually has me alternating between holding my breath and blurting out various unladylike profanities as an attempt to distract myself and make the ride as tolerable as possible.

You can imagine how much my husband Frank loves this when he’s behind the wheel!

2. Ice Cream, Knife Sharpener or Trash Truck?

I wasn’t too sure at first if the loud, clanging noise was the ice cream vendor, the knife sharpener (he actually blows a whistle) or what, until I asked a nearby shop owner who informed me that it was the trash truck—on its way down a narrow, one-way, cobblestone street with pedestrians on both sides.

Stand back!

3. From Farm to Market

A walk through a tianguisan outdoor market filled with a potpourri of every imaginable regional fruit, vegetable, handmade craft and meat—certainly leaves no doubt as to the origin and same-day-freshness of the carne asada tacos you might find yourself eating at one of the many open-air stalls–likely having been delivered that very morning from a nearby rancho.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Tuesday Market, San Miguel de Allende

If you are accustomed to purchasing your t-bone steak or chicken bits all cleaned up, trimmed and nicely packaged–or if you are a vegan–prepare yourself for a bit of a surprise while meandering through one of these vibrant and dynamic markets.

It is not uncommon to see an entire cow or pig head sitting on the corner of a butcher’s stand, along with various other parts of the animal that in the States are normally discarded and not necessarily considered edible, let alone desirable to look at on full display. 

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Cabeza (Cow Head) Tacos

 

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Refrigeration? Arrive early!

When I took my Mom through the mercado during one of her visits with us, she was quite startled to come face-to-face with a large cow’s head, eyeballs and all, sans the skin. I suppose if one were playing with the idea of veganism, a walk through a tianguis just might seal the deal. For carnivores, it is an important reminder to support farmers who are raising their animals in the most ethical conditions possible.

4. Consume Today or Let Ripen

It’s the small things in life…

Many thanks to the supermarkets for separating their avocados into consumo para hoy (consume today) and a para madurar (let ripen) piles.  Also, when going into a Mom & Pop’s frutería, you might have to ask for the avocados as they are usually behind the counter, hidden away and protected from public fondling.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Consume Today/Let Ripen

5. Round and Round The Glorieta We Go

Glorietas…those perplexing roundabout traffic circles that serve as an intersection for oncoming vehicles from all four different directions, often converging at the same time. If you are not careful, alert and prepared as you enter this whirlpool of automobiles, you just might find yourself getting stuck, going around and around, like on a spin toy at a child’s playground, feverishly trying to calculate the right moment to jump off and get out!

I have learned that I must enter the glorietas with confidence, ready to kick ass and take on the fast and furious obstacle-like course of oncoming cars, trucks and motorcycles. I do find myself holding my breath until I have successfully exited the glorieta and am, hopefully, headed in the right direction! 

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Round and Round

6. The Mysteries of A Left-Turn Signal

It is not safe to assume that a blinking left turn signal means that a left turn is about to be executed by the driver in front. Quite the contrary, it often means “go ahead, it is safe to pass me now—on the left”.

However, don’t assume that either, for a pass on the left, when in fact a left turn is in the making can be a risky assumption. Additionally, in Mexico, it is common road etiquette to pull to the right-hand side, before making a left turn.

Are you following all of this?

Keep in mind too, while you are mentally and tactically navigating the road conditions, that there are often burros, cows, horses and dogs on the shoulders that one must avoid for both their safety and yours.

Similar to the dynamics of a glorieta, stay alert, aware of your surroundings and able to respond quickly and safely!

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Decisions

7. Metric, Who?

Algebra and metric conversions, admittedly, are not my strong suit. Fahrenheit to celsius, inches to cm, kilos instead of pounds…it’s enough to make a girl dizzy!

Upon my first few trips to the local butchers, I held my breath, wide-eyed, waiting to see what the two kilos of salchicha that I had just ordered would amount to. Fortunate for me, my family loves Mexican sausages and over four pounds of them could easily fit into our fridge and freezer!

Time to get to work and study this helpful chart!

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Photo Credit: K5 Learning Blog

8. Translate with Caution

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Jerck Beef

9. Where There’s a Will…

Determined, resourceful, ingenious, skillful are all adjectives I would freely use to describe the Mexican people. Whether it is reusing, reconfiguring and repurposing or coming up with the most interesting ways to assign function and form to something that might otherwise be thrown out or thought impossible, the Mexican ingenuity truly embodies the “where there’s a will, there’s a way” expression.

During one of my morning walks around Parque Benito Juarez, I saw this woman in the photo below balancing what appeared to be a very heavy load on her head, navigating her way down the slippery cobblestone streets in flip flops! Impressive indeed!

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Determination & Will

10. Is That Side Mirror Really Necessary?

To avoid collisions and keep your side mirror intact as part of your car, pull it in on narrow, cobblestone streets. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did if you deem it a necessary part of your car.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

11. Hard-Working Burros

In many parts of México, burros are used for field work, transportation and delivery. It is not uncommon to be out and about and come across a pair of them hard at work.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Knock-Knock, Special Delivery!

12. A Different Kind of Saint

One morning after dropping our twins off at school, Frank stopped by the tortillería to pick up a medio kilo of flour tortillas. Next door was a small furniture store that had this little treasure on display out in front:

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Art Is in The Eye of The Beholder

I’m sure you can use your imagination to to guess what this darling little saint statue looked like from behind. I’m thinking the creator of this treasure had a laugh or two.

13. Pig on A Leash

This was a first.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

As seen in El Jardín

14. Trampoline on Third Floor Terraza

Yes, and yikes! No playdates for my kids at this house!

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Life Without Safety Nets

While not an exhaustive list, these are some of the more noteworthy sightings and experiences I have had in these past 6 years. I am grateful that I get to live in a country that keeps my senses alive and teaches me to take things in stride. 

Have you ever experienced or witnessed something in Mexico that has made you wonder, pause, or question in fascination, confusion, amusement, and gratitude?  

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

Saludos,

~Katie

Last but not least, today’s Spanish Lesson:

The Spanish Teacher in me just can’t help herself! You will notice that many of the words throughout this article are cognates–words that sound alike or are possibly spelled exactly alike as their English counterpart. Another reason that Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn—truly!

1. Carretera: highway

2. Tianguis: open-air market

3. Centro: center

4. Mercado: market

5. Consumo para hoy: consume today

6. Para Madurar: need to ripen

7. Frutería: fruit shop

8. Glorieta: roundabout

9. Salchicha: sausage

10. Tortillería: tortilla shop

11. Medio: half

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All photos taken by Katie M. O’Grady

© Katie M. O’Grady @ Los O’Gradys in Mexico, 2012-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photos and links may be used, provided that permission is granted and full and clear credit is given to Katie M. O’Grady @ Los O’Gradys in Mexico with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer!

While we consider ourselves fairly seasoned travelers, we never once thought that packing a carbon monoxide detector would be an essential and life-saving item in our travel preparedness until tragedy struck and my retired firefighter husband was poisoned by carbon monoxide at a “boutique hotel” in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

After dropping our twins off at their much-anticipated 6th grade camp in a rural community outside of Guadalajara, Frank and I set out to enjoy our weekend together, knowing that our children would be in good hands in the company of their classmates and camp counselors.

But instead of enjoying our weekend sightseeing and relaxing together, we spent it fighting for Frank’s life at the Red Cross in Lake Chapala and an Emergency Room and Hyperbaric Chamber Facility in Guadalajara.

Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer!

Continuous High-Dose Oxygen Therapy in Hospital While We Waited for Hyperbaric Chamber Facility to Open in Morning

How could such a thing happen

Do mistakes and bad things just happen? Absolutely.

So does gross negligence.

After several hours of working next to the open window in the Barroca Room at Hotel Villa San Francisco, my husband Frank, upon standing up, was overcome by severe visual disturbances, full-body weakness, confusion, headache, difficulty speaking, pallidness and vomiting.

Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer!

Fighting for His Life & Saying My Prayers

Two Carbon Monoxide Leaks Found in Hotel Hot Water Heater

Confirmation by the hotel staff that in fact two carbon monoxide leaks had been found in the hot water heater, together with all of Frank’s symptoms, diagnostics and treatment, verified that it was carbon monoxide poisoning that had my husband fighting for his life—something that the simple installation of a CO detector would have prevented, not to mention the proper checks and maintenance of the hot water heater by the hotel management and owners themselves.

Only removal from the carbon monoxide and immediate medical intervention with continuous high-saturation oxygen therapy would save Frank’s life. Mega prayers and support from family and friends played their huge part as well. 

Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer!

Hyperbaric Chamber Treatments

As a result of this terrifying, near-death experience, we now ALWAYS travel with carbon monoxide detectors in addition to having them in our home in each of the bedrooms and next to any gas appliances.

We can’t emphasize enough the importance for others to also equip themselves with carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety.

Please, protect yourself and your loved ones with a CO alarm. Or several, depending on the size of your home and travel accommodations.

If one is suddenly overcome with nausea, headache, vision disturbances, confusion and other mind-boggling symptoms, best to seriously consider a CO exposure and get OUT of the room/building until authorities can test for its safety. Of course if you have your own monitorS, that is a prudent measure of self-protection without needing to rely solely on the establishment or the proper authorities.

Something so simple and so affordable can save your and your loved one’s lives in the event of a carbon monoxide leak. 

Buy yours today:

*Carbon monoxide is silent, odorless and tasteless*

Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer!

I hope this information saves just one life. Please share it with your loved ones.

~Katie O’Grady

New York Couple Dies of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The Sharp Family

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Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father's Perspective

Guest Post by The One & Only Frank O’Grady–Retired Firefighter, Solar Entrepreneur, My Right-Hand Man, Husband, Best Friend, Partner-in-Adventure, Father to Our Children and Love of My Life…

Authored by Frank O’Grady

Our immigration to Mexico was my dream, not my children’s.

We moved here when they were eight years old and, in my eyes, still babies in so many ways. They turn 15 this Summer.

Their faith in us was paramount to us having a successful move to Mexico—a part of Mexico where we were not going to be able to bounce back easily over the border to whatever perceived comfort zone that might have existed. 

My dream for Liam, Mairead and Katie was for a life that was not completely centered on commercialism and struggling to keep our heads above watera life without the incessant chasing and worrying about dollars in a world gone mad with the need to buy and consume just a little bit more than can be reasonably earned–a life with involved parents, instead of home just being a place everyone gathered at night after a day or days at work.

I knew there was a different and a better way and like with many of my other dreams I laid plenty of groundwork.

We did not just pick up and leave a life in the USA on some fantastical mid-life crisis.

Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father's Perspective

Retirement at 50?!

Baja California, Our First Mexico Home

We prepared our children in a multitude of ways with many experiences in and about Mexico well before we even broached the subject of moving here.

Katie was only a few months pregnant and Mairead and Liam were fishing with us on the Sea of Cortez out of a tiny aluminum boat. 

We journeyed down the Baja Peninsula, stopping at the same restaurants, rest areas and hotels…our twins hugged and held and squeezed and cheeks pinched by every female worker in these stops.

A love for Mexico was born in our twins from a very early age…

Moving to Mexico With Children, A Father's Perspective

Little twin ducklings following their Mama down to the water’s edge~Camp Gecko, Bahia de Los Angeles

As they became more aware of the differences in their country of birth and the country we vacationed in, they eagerly looked forward to our journeys to a place where we all felt very much at home, a place where we had the time to be together as a family instead of constantly trying to meet an agenda or drive across a city of two million to get somewhere.

Moving to Mexico with Children~A Father's Perspective

Jumping for Joy in The Middle of Baja Desert!

It felt as if every time that we went to Mexico that we were actually going home.

At a certain point in our careers, Katie and I both realized that continuing to support our lifestyle in Southern California was going to essentially condemn us to many decades of work so that someday, when we were close to 80, we might have a paid off house that we hadn’t had much time to enjoy because we were constantly working to pay for it.

When Liam and Mairead were around seven we really started talking to and involving them in our plans to move to Mexico. The existing paradigm wasn’t working for us emotionally, physically or mentally…we knew there was a better way and we were determined and committed to create it together, as a couple and as a family.

We viewed this move through our children’s eyes…how they would experience it as 8-year-olds, as 10-year-olds, as teenagers. We knew that we had an age window to move successfully with them and to do it as a team.

We Retired & Made The Move

I retired from firefighting at 50, Katie from teaching at 44 and with our 8-year-old twins and 5-year-old chocolate lab, we immigrated to Mexico in 2012.

Our children speak, think and navigate life in two languages and through the lens of two cultures. 

They know that their lives are not just their parent’s dreams and creations, but also their own evolving adventure and story.

They know and see that living a life with intent and purpose is a choice.

 

Saludos,

~Frank

For more on our family’s move to Mexico: 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother’s Perspective

 

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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…

*****************************************************************************************************

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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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 good time, smothered them in hugs and kisses and told them we would be back on Monday afternoon to pick them up.

My husband Frank and I were excited for them and excited 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

Read 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 as being a safe place for us to stay. (See bottom of this post for a TripAdvisor review posted 7 months after Frank’s CO poisoning, speaking of yet another boiler problem at HVSF. )

After Frank’s carbon monoxide poisoning at Hotel Villa San Francisco, TripAdvisor kept taking down our first-hand accounts of the incident. After multiple re-submissions with Red Cross, Hospital & Hyperbaric Chamber pictures, diagnosis, treatment and discharge notes, they atlas left them up. Frustrating, dismaying, and shocking to say the least. 

Overbooking on A Holiday Weekend

We had reserved a terraza room with a lake view, but at the last minute, the manager of HVSF notified us that on account of their having overbooked on a holiday weekend that 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 Notified The Management

It was here at breakfast at HVSF 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”. 

Monitor it? 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 one became available.

Frank and I had breakfast together this Friday morning, enjoying our time together, grateful that our children were nearby at their 6th-grade camp. 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

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

CO-Leaking Hot Water Heater Right Outside Window

For the next three hours, Frank worked while I showered and then alternated packing up our belongings and resting on the bed as I was beginning to not feel well with a sore throat, burning eyes and a headache–all symptoms of the first stages of CO exposure. 

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 in the hopes of now getting a hot shower, Frank–who was working next to the window where just on the other side was the hot water heater–heard it “kick in”. He called out to me telling me that I should now have hot water, and while it never got hot, it was at least warm.

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.

Hospital Confirms Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

It all made sense. Frank’s symptoms were every one 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:

“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 owner Rosann:

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

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.

Perhaps on account of it being a holiday weekend and their hotel overbooked, 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 nearly cost my husband, our children’s Daddy, his life.

Now nine 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.

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

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…

~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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Apparently we weren’t the only ones that had hot water heater problems at Hotel Villa San Francisco in Lake Chapala:Retired Firefighter Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide in Lake Chapala, Mexico

 

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