Saturday, February 12, 2011

Canadian stranded in Cuban village with broken back

Canadian stranded in Cuban village with broken back
Last Updated: February 11, 2011 4:44pm

Amateur mountain climber Daniel Baril of St. Jerome, Que., is stranded
in a small apartment in western Cuba, suffering from a broken back,
while his family tries to raise money to have him airlifted out. He fell
Jan. 15, 2011.

A trip to Cuba has become a hellish experience for Canadian Daniel
Baril, who is stranded in a small village with a broken back after he
fell while mountain climbing nearly a month ago.

Baril's Quebec insurance company refuses to pay for an air ambulance out
of the Caribbean country, forcing his family and friends to raise the
$25,000 bill by themselves.

"I'm living in hell," Baril, of St. Jerome, Que., told QMI Agency by
telephone from an ant-infested apartment in Vinales, a two hour drive
outside of Havana.

"I'm taking painkillers every four to six hours. I started walking
(Wednesday) but technically, I shouldn't be walking."

The 41-year-old was forced into the small cement dwelling on Jan. 15
when he could no longer afford hospital bills.

Baril and wife Sophie Geoffroy had ventured into the Vinales valley, a
popular site for Canadian travellers, on Dec. 30. Geoffroy returned to
Quebec on Jan. 10 while Baril continued his forays with other climbers.

Five days later, Baril was climbing with a woman from western Canada
when he fell five metres and struck a rocky surface below.

"I knew it was bad right away," said Baril. "I told (other climbers):
'My back is broken, don't move me.'"

The ambulance arrived four hours later and he was taken to a local
hospital. X-rays showed that his tailbone was broken and he had a
fractured vertebrae. Blood was pooling in his lower body, which was
heavily bruised.

"They punctured me and set up a pan to let the blood flow out," said
Baril. "My underwear was soaked with blood the next morning."

He stayed in the hospital for a week, shocked to see the occasional cat
or dog wander into his room. His wife told QMI Agency everything changed
when hospital staff learned that Baril's insurance company had stopped
making payments.

"They panicked," Geoffroy said. "Daniel sent me a text (saying), 'What's
going on, they closed my file and put me out.'"

Baril was sent to a local bank by ambulance to withdraw money to
continue his treatment. Then doctors broke the bad news: He wouldn't be
able to walk for four months.

Blue Cross Canada told QMI Agency Baril's file is still being reviewed
and it's too early to say if he'll be reimbursed for his ordeal.

Spokesman Michel Courtemanche added Baril's decision to go mountain
climbing could nullify his travel insurance.

In the meantime, Baril spends his days staring at concrete walls in his
small apartment, waiting for his family to come to the rescue. He said
he longs to be reunited with his young daughter back in Canada.

"I haven't seen her, it's hard," he said. "She had a birthday party on
Feb. 2 and I'm trapped here."

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