The teenage girl who was rushed to the United States in critical condition in June is now back home with a new lease on life.
After spending three weeks at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in a coma, and almost a month at the Kendall Regional Medical Centre in Miami where she received a series of tests and intense therapy, 18-year-old Shania Kirton is happy to be home with her family and friends.
Sitting at home with her loved ones, Shania, who returned to the island last Thursday, told Barbados TODAY her close call with death taught her to never take anyone or anything for granted.
“I know there is a God and I always put God first. I appreciate everything everybody has done for me. I appreciate all those who gave blood for me. I appreciate my step-dad who has been there to help my mom get through this rough time.
“I would like to thank the Honourable Neil Rowe [Member of Parliament for the area] who is holding an event for me on Saturday to raise money for my medical [bills]; and another young gentleman, his name is Ryan Walters from the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), who also walked around the neighbourhood and sold cupcakes for me. But I can’t mention everybody because it is a million and one people,” Shania said.
It was in early June when Kirton’s mother Juanita Cave made a passionate appeal for Barbadians to donate blood to help her daughter who was in the Intensive Care Unit at the QEH.
At that time, a hurting Cave explained that doctors were trying to figure out why her daughter, who was diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia at three months old in the United States where she was born, was experiencing serious health challenges that caused her to be hospitalized.
Cave had also said that doctors informed her that Shania, who was in an induced coma, had pneumonia, her left lung was “destroyed”, and she was battling a flu that would not go away.
The mother made the decision to move her daughter from the QEH to the United States for health care.
On June 7, Shania, still in a coma, was transported to Miami.
“I don’t remember being in the coma. I didn’t feel it because I didn’t know what was going on. I could have felt people’s presence being there. But I am happy to be out and I feel really good,” the teenager said.
“I am a very lucky and blessed person. My mother moving me from here was a very risky situation, but she followed her instincts and did what her mother’s instincts told her to do. It was the best decision my mother did in her life. While I was overseas, the people were very nice and always willing to assist me. They were always asking me questions and making sure that I [was] okay. The care was really good at Kendall Regional in Miami.”
Shania added that she was happy she was not diagnosed with any life-threatening condition.
What she did discover, however, is that the type of sickle cell anaemia she suffers from is rare. Medication has been prescribed for Shania who has to follow a special health care routine, which includes regular blood tests.
“My chest is fine, lungs fine, kidney fine, and they actually say I am very blessed. They say I am amazing and the doctors can’t believe that I went through all of this and I look like this right now. But I am healthy and I want to stay healthy,” she said.
“They told me I have to drink more water than I did before. I have to eat healthy because I have gallstones and I have to get my gall bladder removed. But I was really fussy to see my 18th birthday. I couldn’t ask for anything better than to be alive and be able to just walk and talk. I couldn’t even ask for a better mom because there is nobody in the world like her. My mother is the strongest lady I have ever come across.”
A proud Cave sat next to her child with a smile that replaced the tears that had streamed down her cheeks when she first made her public appeal through Barbados TODAY.
She said although she was still faced with having to pay off Shania’s hospital bill and other medical expenses, her decision to get her airlifted to Miami is one she does not regret.
Cave further explained that she lost a sister who died at the QEH while Shania was in a coma, and she did not intend to lose her child too.
“As soon as we landed in Kendall Regional Hospital in Miami, she was awakened, she opened her eyes and she saw people. As she got better, every day she started recognizing people and getting better. Her aunt passed away and we didn’t want to tell her because of her health, but now we have to show her where her aunt was buried,” she said.
Shania celebrated her 18th birthday on July 24, and her mother said they “had a blast”.
“We had a good time. We went to dinner, we had a pool party, took her shopping and had a cake at the house. And she deserved it because we went through a whole lot. But she is doing well,” Cave said.
Shania and her mother will head back to Miami later this year for the teen to have her gallstones removed.