QCOSTARICA – At 9:30 pm Thursday, October 1, Alba Gutiérrez Rivas and her husband, Rafael Villegas Moya, arrived at the Garabito clinic, Puntarenas province, to bring their daughter into the world.
Yes, a single girl. The woman was unaware that she was actually carrying twins.
But that was not the only unexpected event of the night: first, she had to give birth in the ambulance that was going to take her to the Monseñor Sanabria Hospital in the city of Puntarenas.
Then, in Caldera, a blockade forced the ambulance that transported the woman and their babies to remain in stopped for 40 minutes, and, as if it were not enough, the tear gas fired by the Police to disperse the protesters, filtered into the vehicle.
“I was scared, the smell of the bombs being thrown got into the ambulance and the doctor had to give me oxygen, the babies started coughing,” said the 34-year-old woman and mother of four other children from 5 to 13 years of age.
Gutiérrez said that she arrived at the Garabito Clinic with labor pains and there they decided to transfer her to Monsignor Sanabria on an emergency basis. However, she had just gotten into the ambulance and the labor began and gave birth to Jimena.
At that moment the surprises began for Doña Alba and her husband: it was not just one baby, there were two. Inside the vehicle, with some complications, she had her second daughter, Gabriela.
With the newborn babies, the doctors decided to transfer the mother and the little ones to the San Luis medical center.
The driver of the Life Support ambulance, Juan Barrantes, narrated that they ran into the road blockade at the height of Caldera.
“The protesters were letting ambulances pass, but it turns out that the ambulance that I am driving is a large unit, and because of the space that the other ambulances were passing mine was not going to pass. Once there I pulled to the side to let the other ambulances to pass, I could not back out because the protesters had a blocked partly with burning tires, I could not turn around.
“I proceed to coordinate with my colleagues from the operations center to send me a small ambulance from Orotina; and when that ambulance arrives, at the point where the riot police are, they do not let it pass to carry out the transfer of the mother and babies.
“What was the surprise? that no matter how many signals we made and siren blaring, and the Fuerza Publica (national police) was informed, they ignored the ambulance and threw gases at the protesters and directly at the ambulance.
“These are the facts because some media said that the babies were born in the blockade (…) the babies were not born in the blockade, they were born in the clinic parking lot inside the ambulance,” said the driver.
Doña Alba, the mother, confirmed Barrantes’s account.
“We stood for 40 minutes, waiting to see what would happen, we could not pass because there were large trucks crosswise on the road, the ambulance was very large and the space for ambulances to pass was very small (…). The doctor and the driver got out several times to tell the police not to release gases. Then it was the same police who helped us pass,” said the mother.
The ambulance with Doña Alba and her two newborns arrived at the Monseñor Sanabria Hospital past 2 am.
A typical ride from Garabito to the Punaterenas hospital is under 40 minutes, less for an ambulance with lights and sirens, at night, and with the sanitary vehicular restrictions in effect.
“I did not know they were going to be twins, at six months I had an ultrasound. They told me it would be a girl, but not that they would be twins,” said Doña Alba. “I was prepared only for one baby, for example, I only brought clothes for a little girl.”
She does not hide two concerns: how she will meet the needs of her second baby and how she will be able to get back home, in Playa Herradura, amidst the blockages. She expects to be released today, Saturday.
Daniel Calderón, director of the Fuerza Publica, acknowledged that the ambulance was in the midst of the disturbances between the officers and the protesters, but assured that they always looked for a way to get the patients out safely.
“It was not recklessness or negligence on the part of the Police”, Daniel Calderón
“When the police intervention begins, it starts at quite a distance, it was difficult to know that that ambulance was there. In addition, from the burning barricade, they began to throw objects at us, after passing that barricade we found the ambulance (…). Making a transfer at that time was impossible because the other ambulance could not arrive.
“I understand the pressure of the driver to have patients in the ambulance and the obligation, but the transfer could not be made (…). I personally told the driver that we were going to get him out of there and we did that,” said Calderón.
Today is day 4 of the continuing protests. Please stay at home if you can.