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Woman raising funds to send 'jaws' to Ecuador

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By Kelly LeVan

Elida Edelmann had a very specific goal, right from the beginning.“The idea was to save lives,” she said. “I never wanted to send clothes or shoes.”Edelmann grew up in Girn, Ecuador, a small town connected to the city of Cuenca by only a very steep and very treacherous road.Despite a high occurrence of mud and rock slides, local rescue workers do not have the equipment they need to help victims in fatal accidents – accidents that don’t have to be fatal.Edelmann and her family have lived in Los Alamos for several years, but she has never forgotten her roots.In the 1990s, she worked to provide the hospital in Girn with the equipment it needed to listen to the heartbeats of babies in the womb.She said she was motivated to do so after, in the absence of such tools, doctors had had no way to know the fetus of one of Edelmann’s friends had died. Consequently, her friend died as well.Because of her successful efforts to supply the hospital with life-saving ultrasounds, members of the Girn Fire Department wrote to Edelmann of their need for what is commonly known as the “jaws of life,” hoping she could help.“They had to drive 45 minutes away to use rescue equipment,” Edelmann said. “I thought, this is unacceptable.”She asked for a list of the department’s needs, and has been hard at work for several months finding the items they need at affordable prices. Her congregation at White Rock Presbyterian Church has been instrumental, she said, especially Andrew Erickson, an elder at the church who has spent most of his free time lately on e-Bay.“I spent a lot of time researching what was available on the web,” Erickson said. “We got pretty much everything on e-Bay.”Additionally, “we got advice from the Los Alamos Fire Department and even as far away as New York City.”Erickson said the cutter, spreader and hydraulic pump that make up the “jaws of life” would have cost $10,000 new or $5,00-6,000 used. He purchased the trio for $1,900.“Everything looks to be in great shape,” he said.Soon, LAFD’s Wesley Walker, who speaks Spanish fluently, will head to Ecuador with the tools and some Motorola radios to not only deliver the equipment, but teach the local crews how to effectively use it.“We use (the ‘jaws of life’) in accidents where the vehicle damage prevents us from being able to get to the patient,” he said. If not for the “jaws of life,” he added, “we’d have to use hand tools and that would take forever ee If there’s a serious accident where time is of the essence, we are able to get to the patients much more quickly with the ‘jaws of life.’”Previously, as a member of the National Guard, Walker traveled to El Salvador to help construct schools.Although White Rock Presbyterian has already donated money to help pay for the cutter, spreader and pump, Edelmann is organizing a fundraiser to help pay Walker’s way to Girn and for other equipment on the Girn Fire Department’s wish list, including a chainsaw, heavy duty winches, life vests with whistles, safety harnesses and other rappelling gear for high-mountain rescues, and other basic needs.The “Love for Life” banquet will be begin at 6 p.m. Feb. 8 at the White Rock Baptist Church, located on N.M. 4. Suggested donations are $18 for individuals or $30 for couples. The evening includes a full meal and dessert, as well as presentations by Edelmann, Walker, Erickson and the Rev. Harry L. Chronis of White Rock Presbyterian.Additionally, Mario Reynolds will perform Andean music.“I want to showcase not only our needs, but our talents, too,” Edelmann said.Because Edelmann needs to guarantee a certain number of tickets will be sold in order to make the event financially feasible, she asks those interested to RSVP by Friday. If you would like to attend, please call White Rock Presbyterian at 672-3682 or stop by the church, located at 310 Rover Blvd.