By FELICITY DARVILLE
A Bahamian woman who survived the deadly COVID-19 virus today shares her story and applauds Prime Minister Hubert Minnis’ decision to close the borders to US travellers in order to preserve the health and safety of Bahamians.
She knows the border closure can result in new economic setbacks for the country, but says the decision was “long overdue”.
“If tourism is still the focus rather than diversifying the economy, they should more aggressively market elsewhere or for more exclusive ‘luxury’ accommodations, such as Albany, private yachts, and so on.
“People should take this seriously, not only for themselves, but those around them,” she warned.
She contracted the virus in April this year and suffered tremendously as the virus took its toll. She quarantined herself in her bedroom and worried about both of her parents who were in the home with her. She had recently returned home from college for spring break. Her friend had complained about having some chest pains, but did not develop more serious symptoms. My interviewee, who chose to remain anonymous, said she had gone to the MediCenter on a completely unrelated matter, and five days later, became very ill. This led into two weeks of agony with symptoms that at the time, made her feel like it would take forever for her to get better.
“COVID-19 is real,” she said.
“Though I knew within myself I would have a successful recovery, for the entire duration I worried about my father. He is in his 60s and has underlying conditions. I worried that I would pass it on to him and if so, I would have never forgiven myself for it.”
“I started to have awful chest pain. My chest felt very restricted and tight. My back was hurting and I found myself rubbing down with muscle relaxers because it felt like the walls of my chest were hurting. It wouldn’t go away unless I applied pressure. Then I noticed my throat was feeling dry and scratchy. The last symptom that worried me the most happened when I took a soak in a warm bath. I started to have chills. So, I got up and called the COVID-19 emergency hotline. They told me to go to Princess Margaret Hospital, so I went to the Emergency Room.
“The Emergency Room service was almost completely touch free. They barely examined me. I had more symptoms by that time, such as a lack of appetite, elevated blood pressure, sleeping problems, tiredness and some diarrhea. I was still having breathing problems and my chest was getting tighter. They did an X-Ray on me, then they told me to go to Flamingo Gardens Clinic in the morning for the results.
“I spoke with doctors at the clinic there. My temperature was slightly high, but my blood pressure was sky high. But the X-Ray appeared okay – it did not show any signs of pneumonia. They gave me pain killers and they sent me to South Beach Clinic to get tested. It was at this clinic that they told me I tested positive for COVID-19.
“I was told to quarantine away from my family. This was hard to do. I live with my mother and father and although they were in the home, I had to stay by myself in my room for two weeks.”
At home, she remained locked away in her room and communicated with her parents only by WhatsApp calls. She would crack her bedroom door open only to pick up a tray of food or to rest her dishes outside the door when she was done using them. If she wanted to use the bathroom, she would have to call and let her parents know so that they could be secure in their room and she could make her way to the bathroom. Once she was done using the bathroom, she would sanitise everything before she went back into her room.
Her parents also had to be quarantined from the general public. They moved about the house, but she did not leave her room during that time. Luckily, her parents did not contract the virus. Her parents did their best to accommodate her and encourage her by calls as they were not able to physically console their daughter as she battled COVID-19 right there in the home with them.
“There were days when I was scared and felt like it would not get better,” she said.
“In addition to those initial symptoms, I also developed terrible headaches. I tried my best not to rely on the painkillers all the time. My parents served me healthy food the whole time. I took vitamins and supplements, including vitamin D, which is said to help fight the virus.
“COVID depends on the immune system, I can say. One day, I would start to feel much better, but if I encountered any stress, I would feel very bad again. I was doing online courses while in quarantine, and that was stressful. Then, one of my friends died. Each time, the stress would cause the symptoms to rage. But, I did practise breathing exercises, which helped me with the chest tightness and breathing difficulty.
“During my entire time of quarantine, the doctors only told me to call them if I had difficulty breathing. That’s the only conversation I had with the doctors. I was surprised at how lightly they treated it. There was no calling and checking up on me, no testing.
“I was concerned about the lack of contact tracing. They only assumed I got the virus when I was in school, but I had been home about three weeks before I had symptoms. They did not check to make sure I was in quarantine, and they did not test my parents although they were in the home with me.”
She made the decision to stay in her room for another week just to protect her parents and to make sure the virus was completely gone before she emerged. So, she spent three weeks in quarantine altogether.
Today, months after her horrible experience, she says she feels only 80 percent recovered. The reason is because when she had COVID-19, she had terrible insomnia. She could only rest as opposed to getting into deep sleep, because the symptoms became considerably worse. She is still left with insomnia.
“I hope that sharing my story gives some perspective,” she said.
“I am grateful my symptoms were not as bad as they could have been and that my family members, who are more vulnerable, were not affected.
“This virus has taught me that we must be more considerate as a people. Take note that even the smallest precautions can be effective. Everyone must do their part.”