Wrong turn puts volunteer in the right place at the right time in El Salvador

Photo: Steve Curran with daughter Emily during their Fuller Center Global Builders trip he led to El Salvador in June.

Wrong turn puts volunteer in the right place at the right time in El Salvador

The seven-person Fuller Center Global Builders team led by Steve Curran had just enjoyed Mass at a Catholic church and were on their way to a restaurant near a volcano for a leisurely lunch near the scenic Cerro Verde volcano — a reward well-earned for their hours of volunteer labor helping build simple, decent homes for families in El Salvador.

“It started out as a routine day,” recalled Curran, a volunteer firefighter from Dripping Springs, Texas, who is trained as an emergency medical responder. On the way to the restaurant, Curran found himself wondering about the concrete barrier that divided the highway. There were occasional gaps in the barrier that seemed unnecessary. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Why do they have those openings? People surely don’t cross here.’”

No sooner had that thought crossed his mind than a large dog darted out into the road. A motorcycle in front of them struck the animal, sending the riders — the driver and his wife — into the barrier.

“It sent them for a loop, and they smashed right into that concrete barrier,” Curran said. “We just happened to be right behind them.”

He yelled for the bus to “STOP!” and instinctively sprung into action, racing out of the volunteer van and to the woman, Bella, who appeared to have taken a bigger hit and was being held upright by her husband, Juan. Lisselot Troconis, who leads The Fuller Center for Housing’s and The People Helping People Network’s operations in El Salvador, was beside him and translating with her fluent English skills. They called for an ambulance as Curran helped Bella lie down. He checked her vitals and looked for broken bones and other injuries.

Juan holds his wife, Bella, as Lisselot Troconis and Steve Curran assist following the couple's motorcycle crash.
Juan holds wife Bella as Lisselot Troconis and Steve Curran assist after the motorcycle crash.

“I was really worried about a neck injury the way she got thrown into that wall,” Curran remembered, noting that they waited over an hour for an ambulance to show. When police arrived in the meantime, they wanted to put her in the back of a pickup and drive her to a hospital. “I told them that was probably not a good idea because if she’s got a neck injury, it’s gonna make it worse.”

Bella was complaining about her left leg and left arm, which she was unable to move. Not having any of his normal EMR gear from home, Curran improvised. He borrowed a police officer’s knife and cut carpet from the van and sliced a towel into strips to fasten a makeshift sling. As they continued to wait for an ambulance, he put water on her forehead and kept an umbrella over her head.

Finally, after more than an hour, an ambulance arrived. Curran helped them load Bella into the ambulance and get her stabilized. Juan called Troconis later that afternoon that Bella miraculously escaped breaking any bones, though she suffered massive bruising. He wanted to express their deep gratitude for Curran’s expert assistance in their moment of need.

Curran was simply grateful to not only be of service but to have even been on the scene at all.

“As providence would have it, we had taken a wrong turn and had to get back on the highway — that’s what put us right behind them,” Curran said. “The husband and wife are convinced it was a divine kind of thing, and it may very well have been.”

A little more than a week ago, Juan shared more good news. Bella learned that they were expecting a baby due in January. No one knew it at the time, but Bella was pregnant at the time of the accident.

“He was thrilled,” Troconis said of the news. “Juan and Bella would love to thank Steve in person. They will send him a picture of the baby once it is born.”

“They actually wanted me and Lisselot to be the godparents,” added Curran. “I told Lisselot she could do it, but it would be pretty hard for me to do that from here, but I’d keep them in my prayers and we’ll stay in touch.”

steve curran
Steve Curran advised his Global Builders team before the trip: "As I told my team, just keep an open heart, an open mind and an open schedule because you never know what’s going to happen." He didn't know at the time how prophetic he was being.

A veteran of international travel — for pleasure and for service — Curran had advised his seven-member Global Builders team to expect the unexpected.

“It could be anything from flight cancellations to traffic accidents — it’s just not the same as here,” he said. “I try to make sure I have my phone and What’s App and all that stuff. You just gotta be flexible. As I told my team, just keep an open heart, an open mind and an open schedule because you never know what’s going to happen.”

One thing he knows will happen, though, is that he will be back.

“It’s a beautiful country,” he said of El Salvador. “It’s my second time going there, and I really want to go back. I really love working with Lisselot and her team over there.”

Her team is Gente Ayudando Gente, through whom The Fuller Center works to build homes and through whom The People Helping People Network works in the areas of housing, hunger relief, healthcare and education. Curran is a big fan of the holistic approach to empowering and uplifting families.

“They run a good program there,” he said. “I fell in love with their ability to help people in ways beyond a home. They do all kinds of programs. I love that whole idea. And, as far as logistics, you’re always going to have some hiccups no matter where you go. To me, the amount of hiccups with that crew is very minor. If there’s something that’s not quite right, they fix it immediately. I always felt safe, and I always felt that they had our best interests at heart.”

He doubts he will be the only one returning.

“I don’t know what all the volunteers had to say about their trip and me as a trip leader, but I think they all enjoyed the trip and want to come back and do more work with Fuller.”

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