An athlete who suffered a severe asthma attack on the eve of the Special Olympics World Games has thanked doctors in Abu Dhabi for coming to her aid.
Shanice Baptiste was one of more than 250 athletes who required medical treatment - with 22 admitted to hospital - during the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.
The Department of Health said it "took responsibility" to provide care for athletes who were found to be suffering from illnesses during the Games, providing them with "full medical coverage".
More than 7,500 athletes of various intellectual disabilities from 192 countries took part in the event from March 14 to 21.
Baptiste suffered the heartbreak of missing out on representing Trinidad and Tobago in the Games after falling ill when the inhalers she traveled with failed to work.
But the 22-year-old is now full of cheer thanks to the support of the dedicated medical team who treated her at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City for more than a week.
“The UAE government is fully responsible for the health and safety of the athletes during the Games,” said Mattar Al Nuami, director of emergency and disaster management at the Department of Health and chair of the Special Olympics medical committee.
“However, the UAE took the responsibility of treating a number of athletes who discovered had pre-game illnesses and provided them with full medical coverage in the UAE.
“In the history of the Special Olympics, it is not customary for the host country to care for the athletes even after the games but the UAE’s leadership remains committed to supporting all the athletes regardless of the games.
“All the costs and medical needs of Shanice will continue to be covered until after she arrives home safely.
“I’d like to thank SKMC medical staff for taking care of Shanice and all of the athletes.”
As part of efforts to provide medical support during the Games, about 300 athletes were also fitted with hearing aids after thousands were screened in the Healthy Athletes programme, which provided free diagnosis and treatment.
Baptiste has made a strong enough recovery that she well finally get to fly home on Monday, more than a week after the Games came to an end.
Her family are anxiously waiting for her return and while Baptiste, who has learning and hearing difficulties, is excited about going home, health officials are taking every precaution before putting her on a flight.
An ambulance will be waiting for her on arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport from Abu Dhabi, to transport her to Gatwick Airport for the last leg of a gruelling journey.
Doctors at SKMC said that after intensive treatment at the hospital, she will be able to go on a flight but will require an oxygen tank for the long trip.
The athlete fell ill a day before the world games and according to medical professionals had difficulty taking a breath and had violent coughing bouts.
She was immediately transported by an ambulance to the capital’s main hospital.
Baptiste, a food and nutrition students, was due to take part in the bocce competition, a sport similar to bowls, in Abu Dhabi.
Lying in her hospital bed next to her coach Clevanic Williams-Cupid, who has also been a pillar of support during a trying time, Baptiste broke into a wide smile as soon as her doctor walked into the room.
She said she is determined to “thank all the doctors and nurses” who have cared for her during her stay.
“They are so nice,” she said. “I’d like to go to all of them and thank them before I leave.”
“When Shanice came to me she was wheezing and couldn’t take a breath,” said consultant internal physician Dr Waqar Gaba.
“She had asthma since birth and had come with inhalers but they didn’t work,” he said.
She was given a course of antibiotics and nebulisers
“We have treated the main problem and she is ready to go home.”
In her short time at the hospital, Baptiste made friends not only with the staff but other patients as well.
Jumana Ali, 55, from Palestine is receiving treatment at the same hospital for a middle ear infection. Her daughter Reem Diyab,18 is staying with her.
A long time UAE resident, she enjoyed getting to know the visiting athlete.
“I wanted her to more about the UAE's traditions and culture and not be scared so we spent the night chatting and laughing,” she said with a smile.
The trip to the UAE was Baptiste's first time outside her home country.
The medical care she received is "like nothing back home," she said.
"It is all high standard. I miss my family and can't wait to get home but I am glad I'm getting treated and taken care of by the doctors and nurses."