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Fire costs man with sickle cell his medicine

CLEARWATER — Smoke filled the second-floor apartment so quickly Tara Battle didn't have a chance to get her purse.

"We just ran out," she said. "My husband ran back up in the flames and grabbed my purse."

But Anthony Battle didn't have time to get the medicine that eases the pain caused by his sickle cell anemia.

On Tuesday, three days after the fire at their Sunset Point apartment building, Battle said, "My joints are aching. They're killing me."

To make matters worse, Battle said his doctor would not issue him a refill for his narcotic pain medication unless he came into the office or produced an official report on the fire.

Battle, who is temporarily staying at a Clearwater motel paid for by the Tampa Bay chapter of the American Red Cross, said he does not have $150 to pay for an office visit.

Battle was still in limbo Tuesday afternoon. While Clearwater Fire and Rescue officials announced the fire was caused by an electrical problem, Battle had not yet received a copy of the report to give to his doctor, he said.

Anthony Battle's health struggles were detailed in the St. Petersburg Times in September during Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness Month.

The genetic disease that mostly affects African-Americans is a serious disorder in which the body makes abnormally shaped red blood cells. The cells can form clumps and become stuck in blood vessels, blocking blood flow and causing pain.

The Battles and Tara Battle's two sons from a previous relationship, 16-year-old Lindsey Small and 12-year-old Trevyon Small, were told Tuesday would be the last night the Red Cross could pay for their lodging.

Anthony Battle said he had no idea where they would go after check-out.

"The car?" Battle wondered.

But later Tuesday, a Red Cross spokeswoman said the agency was working with the family to try to find them suitable housing and may assist with the family's first month of rent.

"We will make sure they're not going to be out on the streets, especially during the holidays," said Tampa Bay chapter spokeswoman Janet McGuire.

The Battles were able to salvage some photos of Tara Battle's deceased father and brother.

Beyond that, "nothing, nothing," could be saved, Anthony Battle said.

A debit card donated by the Red Cross to buy essentials has been spent, the Battles said.

And the fire, which broke out around 1:45 a.m. Saturday and left the building at 1170 Sunset Point uninhabitable, dealt the couple another blow.

Both Anthony and Tara Battle had been offered jobs at a Palm Harbor telemarketing company. They were scheduled to start Monday and fear now the offer may be rescinded.

"We can't even find the phone number to call because it's in the house," Tara Battle said.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Fire costs man with sickle cell his medicine 11/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 9:30pm]

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