By Lucy Chabot Reed
When YachtAid Global called after two hurricanes swept over the Caribbean, Rebecca Castellano pulled out all the medical supplies and medicines she’d been reserving for just such an occasion. She filled about a dozens bins, bags and boxes with bandages, gauze, IV tubing, and antibiotics and other medicines that she’d removed from yacht medical kits during the course of routine updating.
The bins nearly filled the hold of a private plane making a run to Dominica. The next day, the pilot called asking if she had any more.
“He told me that a 12-year-old boy had died because the oral antibiotics we gave him weren’t strong enough,” she said last week. “Well, that tugged at every string of my heart, so now I’m reaching out to see if yachts can part with any of their medical supplies.”
Castellano, sales manager for Medical Support Offshore in Fort Lauderdale, is asking any yacht in the South Florida area to donate materials from their kits to help the Caribbean islands hardest hit by recent hurricanes.
“Dominica doesn’t have the support of an agency like FEMA or Holland or France or the US.,” she said. “Puerto Rico, as bad as it is there, has a U.S. Naval medical ship sitting offshore.”
Doctors are especially in need of IV (injectable) antibiotics, IV fluids (saline or lactated ringers/Hartmanns solution) and IV tubing set ups.
“Ninety percent of the stuff in medical kits have expiration dates, even bandages and gauze,” Castellano said. “For that yacht to meet compliance, we have to give them a certificate that says everything is up-to-date, and that often means restocking usable items.”
Whenever she provides an update for a yacht’s medical kit and must remove items near their expiration date, she tells the captain she will forward the items along to others who need them.
“I make every boat aware that I’m not throwing this stuff away, I’m passing it along,” she said. “And the captains are never unwilling to send it.”
In times outside of natural disasters, she works with Catholic Charities to help stock clinics in poor, rural areas of Florida such as Belle Glade.
“I can’t donate to just anybody, but I can get them into the hands of doctors helping poorer communities,” she said.
Castellano is working with YAG, local Catholic Charities, and private pilots to get the supplies in the hands of medical professionals on the islands. Fort Lauderdale maritime attorney Danielle Butler arranged for two private planes to deliver items to Dominica in late September.
Any vessel willing to donate medicines or medical supplies can drop them off at Bluewater Books and Charts (3233 S.W. Second Ave. 33315) anytime this week or bring them to the MSOS booth at the Triton Expo tomorrow at Universal Marine Center. If pick up is needed, email becky@MSOS.org.uk.
Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.