Life, death and recovery…
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Elizabeth Rodrigues
Elizabeth Rodrigues

The heartaches brought on by COVID-19

IN 2019, Guyanese celebrated Old Year’s Night with our usual extravagance, and whether we chose to party or pray, many of us entered 2020 sporting high hopes and sparing very little thought about the novel coronavirus which had started to emerge in Wuhan, China.

I imagine that the lack of concern that permeated the local population had much to do with the fact that we, as a country, have become quite accustomed to being God’s favourite; in addition to being home to almost every enviable resource known to man, Guyana is also a cultural haven, often spared from various disasters and tragedies occurring globally.

But soon enough, the respiratory disease, now referred to as COVID-19, would spread indiscriminately throughout the world, rendering the entire human race susceptible to infection. This time, ‘The Land of Many Waters’ was not spared, and from March 2020 to March 2021, thousands of Guyanese have contracted the deadly virus while more than 200 persons have succumbed to it.

Mahendra Budhram

Stephon Hussain was among the thousands who fortunately recovered; however, his father, People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) stalwart Majeed Hussain was among those who lost their lives. The 22-year-old Diamond Housing Scheme, East Bank Demerara resident said that he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on December 29, 2020, shortly after his father’s condition was confirmed.

The young student related that he experienced a series of the symptoms, including body pains and cough, as well as loss of appetite and smell. A young Hussain would soon go into home isolation where he remained confined to his bedroom, while subscribing to a strict diet of supplements to strengthen his immune system.

“At the beginning, it was physically draining,” the young man posited.

As he battled his own physical symptoms, Hussain said that he remained emotionally torn over the fact that his father had been placed into institutional isolation due to the severity of his condition.

“The time whereby my father went into institutional isolation and my contracting the symptoms were almost identical, so we were dealing with [all of] it at the worst time,” Hussain told this publication.
As the days went by, Majeed Hussain’s condition rapidly deteriorated, and he eventually succumbed to the virus, thereby increasing the total number of deaths on the Ministry of Health’s daily COVID-19 dashboard.

BIG LOSS
“He was always ever-present in my life and losing him is something that I will continue to feel every day,” his son said.

Like Majeed, Mr. and Mrs. Rodrigues of Station Street, Kitty, Georgetown, were also above the age of 50, thereby being classified as being at high-risk. Mr. Rodrigues who worked as a Security Guard was the first to experience symptoms. “After he come home feeling sick, he went to do the test and they sent him back and told him to stay home,” Elizabeth Rodrigues related.

The woman said that once her husband returned home with his positive results, she ensured that he was comfortably secured in his room, while she assumed the role of his nurse. It would take approximately one week for Mrs. Rodrigues to start displaying symptoms. Armed with her suspicion, the woman sought medical attention, and a COVID-19 test determined that she had become infected with the virus that had continued taking a significant toll on her husband.

“I started to get short of breath, and when the results come back, right away they take me over to the [Infectious Diseases] hospital; I told the doctor right there that my husband had the virus too and that he was in a more bad condition than me,” Mrs. Rodrigues noted.

Stephon Hussain

She said that a team of COVID-19 responders were immediately dispatched to the couple’s home, and that Mr. Rodrigues was transported to the specialty hospital where he had to have been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. “He was on the life machine,” Mrs. Rodrigues confirmed.

The woman said that she burst into tears on her way to the hospital, out of fear that she would not survive the inhumane treatment that she heard was being ‘served’ at the medical facility.

Upon arrival at the Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara facility, ‘Liz’ would be confined to a room in the hospital’s upper floor while her husband continued battling for his life just below. In the days that would follow, Mr. Rodrigues would be miraculously nursed back to health, and Mrs. Rodrigues would develop a deep admiration and appreciation for staff at the Infectious Diseases Hospital where she spent 14 days.

“I was really scared, because you always hearing people say things, but I was really surprised by how nice the doctors and nurses were and how much they went out of their way to treat you like family. From the first time I reach there, they were there for me,” Mrs. Rodrigues related.

Describing frontline medical workers as being ‘true heroes’, Mrs. Rodrigues joined many others in advocating for salary increases for medical workers who have been risking their lives to provide care to persons infected with infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

THE STIGMA
Meanwhile, Mahendra Budhram, a Project Manager attached to the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security expressed concerns relating to the stigma that has become attached to the coronavirus.

“It is a fear that people will have, so I can understand it,” Budhram said.

He believes that even with the fears, it’s nonsensical to discriminate against persons who have had COVID-19 and recovered, since those are the persons who are more likely to take stricter precautions.

“You have a section of the population who really believe that COVID-19 does not exist, and they don’t take any precautions or anything, so I can understand where some of the fears come from,” Budhram said.

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