February 21, 2014
Medical school names girl’s mysterious illness

On Friday, 7th February, a team of doctors from the Trinity School of Medicine, led by president and CEO Steve Wilson, paid a visit to a young lady of Rose Bank, who was impacted by the floods of December 24th, 2013.{{more}} The main objective of the visit was to deliver foodstuff and clothing to her, and to review the status of an illness they had begun to treat.

According to her mother, two days after the birth of the 21-year-old, what looked like water boils covered her skin. She said that they later turned black, then dried up. Around the age of seven, she was taken to visit a doctor in Kings­town. She was given a biopsy, but the results were never explored, as the examining doctor had departed St Vincent and the Grenadines.

This, she explained, has been happening throughout the child’s life. Because of it, she has never attended school and it simply remained a mystery to the family.

The phenomenon had never hampered her other activities. On December 24th, 2013, however, just after 10 p.m., after incessant rains throughout the country, the mother reported that her daughter was resting on her bed close to a window in her room. Not realizing that there were devastating floods in the area, the family did not evacuate. It was reported that the flood waters forced themselves through her daughter’s window and covered her with water. Days after this incident, her body became covered with severe blisters of the skin. She spent four days in hospital. It was reported that blood tests revealed a serious skin infection.

On January 12th, 2014, faculty from Trinity School of Medicine and the SVG Rotary Club conducted a joint Village Doctor exercise in the Rose Bank area. On Trinity’s team was a visiting dermatologist and immuno-dermatologist from Canada. He immediately sought to investigate the young lady’s condition. According to a professor at the Trinity School of Medicine, by 17th January, the team had returned to Rose Bank and administered a bleach bath to the patient and handed over the necessary medications to look after the condition. Her bedding was removed and the school funded a new mattress, linen and curtains for her room, which they had sterilized.

The young lady was diagnosed with ‘epidermolysis bullosa simplex’, a genetic skin disease which is reported to be very rare in the Caribbean in general, and the Vincentian community in particular. The professor explained that “some genetic disorders manifest in certain environmental conditions,” like the flood. In the young lady’s case, the flood waters had triggered a skin infection that further complicated her condition, and ‘epidermolysis bullosa simplex’, when it is complicated by other factors, “could be very life-threatening”. The young lady was considered very close to arriving at this point. It was reported that, had she not been seen, within a mere four days she could have succumbed to the illness.

When the team visited her on February 7th, she had shown marked improvement since the intervention. The Trinity School of Medicine maintains regular contact to monitor her progress and provide the necessary supplies and medication during these difficult times after the flood.