Features & Updates
From Flames to Recovery: How ABSAR's Lifesaving Care Shines in Antigua
“I didn’t know the flames were going to go so high! My face, my hair, my arms, my clothes, everything was on fire,” says Antigua resident Errol, remembering the day in September 2020 when an unexpected gasoline fire suddenly set him ablaze.
Luckily, he was with a friend who was able to put out the fire and rush him to the Antigua & Barbuda Search and Rescue (ABSAR) Medic Station, where staff and volunteers are on call to treat medical emergencies.
“Errol came to our office with severe burns to an estimated 10% of his body and received immediate care from our ABSAR medics,” says Karen Mothersill, ABSAR’s administrative coordinator. “One of those medics was our employee, Kiana Luciano, an Advanced-EMT who is known in the English Harbour area as being a miracle worker with burns and wound care.”
Errol certainly thinks Mrs. Luciano and ABSAR are miracle workers.
Mrs. Luciano says ABSAR provided Errol with sometimes daily wound cleaning and dressing changes for 16 days until he no longer required medical oversight and could easily care for the healed burns on his own. He was advised to limit direct sun exposure to the affected areas and apply vitamin E oil for up to several weeks after his final dressing change.
“His entire treatment was free of charge, but his family kindly donated what they were able and gifted me a lovely bag of fresh lemon grass,” says Mrs. Luciano.
The ABSAR Medic Station is located at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina Resort, where it provides walk-in treatment for a variety of minor injuries and illnesses and works in cooperation with many doctors on the island. The nonprofit organization is also an officially recognized search and rescue service in Antigua and Barbuda and provides marine search and rescue, marine firefighting, community emergency medical response, and on-the-water support of local regattas, swimming, and boating events.
The Mill Reef Fund is a longtime supporter of ABSAR, funding vital equipment that includes rescue vehicles, medical supplies, defibrillators, and marine navigational equipment.
Helping a Sick Child: Years-long Search Leads to Sickle Cell Diagnosis
Dr. Edda Hadeed (left) and Ms. Millett
Heatherlyn Millett was in her 30s when a life-altering turn of events changed everything. The unexpected death of her sister, a profound loss, left her with a precious responsibility: raising her ailing infant nephew.
Doctors on the island couldn’t tell her why her nephew was in so much pain so often, or why he was prone to severe infections, leaving Ms. Millett searching for help, frustrated but determined not to give up.
Pain crises and hospital stays on the island went on for years until her nephew was 10 years old and became so ill with lengthy, debilitating symptoms that Ms. Millett found a way, despite limited resources, to take him to see doctors abroad.
“I promised my sister I would take care of her child, and I was going to do everything in my power to help him,” she says today. The boy was finally diagnosed with sickle cell disease and received treatment that is not available locally to manage his complications.
The sudden onset of excruciating pain, when sickle cells block blood flow to organs and limbs, can last for days. Organ damage, infections, vision problems, anemia, and risk of strokes are complications of sickle cell disease. This lifelong disease can be improved with careful management, says Ms. Millett, but the symptoms can be unpredictable and devastating, even if you do everything right.
“In spite of intermittent, harrowing complications, my nephew, who is now in his 20s, is currently pursuing his college degree in health care with great determination. He has plans and dreams for the future.”
“Ms. Millett is a fierce advocate for patients with sickle cell disease, while also a busy, successful general manager of a large local business,” says Dr. Edda Hadeed, president of the Sickle Cell Association of Antigua and Barbuda (SCAAB). “She is an invaluable member of our association and always makes time to help us, whether that’s organizing food drives for our patients or spearheading future projects.”
“Sickle cell disease has more challenges than I can count,” says Ms. Millett. “The disease is pervasive in our local communities, but it’s still misunderstood, under served, and neglected. SCAAB promotes awareness of the disease, provides education to the public and medical professionals, and occasionally has an opportunity to contribute to public policies. Antigua is in dire need of a Sickle Cell Unit with specialized staff, as well as improved medical care on a nationwide level. Getting the help we need is a constant battle, but we are not willing to give up.“