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Paramedics who responded to Mexico hotel deaths have fallen ill

Jun 20, 2023

The sibling paramedics who responded to an American couple found dead in their room at an upscale hotel in Mexico last week are now saddled with medical bills after having fallen ill themselves, according to a fundraiser for the pair.

Fernando Valencia Sotelo and Grisel Valencia Sotelo, who tried to revive Abby Lutz, 28, and John Heathco, 41, who died by "intoxication by an undetermined substance" at Rancho Pescadero near Cabo San Lucas, "were overcome" as they attended to the couple.

Now the two are receiving medical care at a private hospital, a fundraiser for the siblings states. By Tuesday, the crowdfund had surpassed its goal of raising $30,000 on their behalf.

Shortly after they responded to the emergency call, Grisel and Fernando themselves began to feel sick, the fundraiser's organizer, Hilary Chandler, a local artist who sits on the board of the Firefighters and Paramedics of Pescadero, told CBS MoneyWatch.

"They were checking to see if there were signs of life, then they looked at each other around the same time and were not feeling well, said they were feeling dizzy. It was right then that they knew they had to get out of the room, that the scene wasn't safe," she said.

The pair, who volunteer for the nonprofit Firefighters and Paramedics of Pescadero, were subsequently taken to a hospital in the state of La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, and later transferred to a private hospital.

The Sotelo siblings still feel "very ill" and are concerned about the long-term health effects they may suffer. Their treatment has included a slew of medical tests as well as hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Ongoing costs will include therapy and nutritional treatment to stave off potential health complications, according to Chandler.

However, they face large out-of-pocket expenses that they cannot afford, according to Chandler. The Firefighters and Paramedics of Pescadero, whose chief, Griselda Sotelo, is the siblings' mother, is supported entirely by private donations. Sotelo runs the department out of her home.

Chandler said she and her husband helped the Sotelo siblings foot their initial hospital bill, adding that the nonprofit has not received compensation for any of their medical bills, which are expected to run into the thousands of dollars.

The Sotelos initially hesitated to go to the private hospital given the anticipated cost, but it was the only facility where they could be properly treated, according to Chandler. Funds raised will go toward covering the cost of their treatment and compensating them for lost wages due to taking time off from work. Additional funds will support the volunteer organization, which she said remains severely underfunded.

"Our volunteers are very well trained but we need everyone to have the proper safety equipment, such as carbon monoxide and gas detectors, so something like this doesn't happen again," Chandler said.

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