DEBRA WANSER, SUNDAY GUARDIAN EDITOR
COVID-19 survivor CHRISTOPHER ALLEYNE:
It is Thursday morning–May 27–and I am COVID-19 positive, hooked up to an oxygen tank and lying on a bed in the tent at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope, desperately hoping to live but preparing to die at age 53. I am getting worst based on my oxygen levels, my breathing is laboured, I have a high fever, and I am feeling extremely exhausted, but Dr Suratsingh, God bless him, kept me as comfortable as he could. I could hear him telling another doctor how concerned he was about my worsening condition and that they will need to transfer me to the Couva Hospital. Hearing this I became very depressed and dejected, I sort of gave up hope and started making peace with God because I really thought by Thursday night into Friday I would have passed away. I was at death’s door. It was my third day at the hospital. I was brought to the facility by an ambulance on Monday, May 24 paralysed with fear. Thank the Lord I had taken the AstraZeneca vaccine four weeks earlier. But, had I not taken my first jab of the vaccine, I was told, I would have more than likely be dead.
It is a known fact that even if you take the vaccine, it does not prevent you from getting the virus. However, it can prevent you–as it did for me–from dying.
Sunday, May 23
My mind is racing back to Sunday, May 23 at my sister, Francia’s home in Arima
That Sunday was like any regular Sunday. I was at home and my nephew called and said ‘We frying fish and making a peas and rice, come up the road.’ Along the way, I stopped and bought ice cream and cake. We had a great Sunday evening filled with old talk and laughter while sitting on her porch, we talked about going on vacation and what we were planning to do. We discussed our plan to go to Disney with my teenaged nephews, but we were waiting for COVID to settle down and the plan was to travel in 2022. We joked and had fun like we usually would. When it was getting close to 5 pm I told them I was heading home.
At 5:05 pm, on my way back to my home having just passed Trincity Mall I started coughing, the cough was dry but becoming uncomfortable. When I got home I called my sister and told her how I was feeling, and she told me they were also getting a dry cough.
By 9:30 pm I was experiencing a very high fever and my condition was getting worst, not being able to breathe. I started to become agitated as the hours passed and I was running a very high fever. I started pacing the house, convinced and scared that I had contracted COVID.
Monday, May 24
At approximately 2:20 am on Monday, May 24 the feeling is unbearable, I called for the ambulance which arrived around 5 am. I was asked for personal details then taken to Mt Hope. Burning up with fever, I arrived at the hospital where I was wheeled in and placed on a chair while waiting to be interviewed and tested. I was eventually swabbed and told I was COVID positive around 10 am. I was then taken for a chest X-ray and upon my return was placed on a bed in a makeshift plastic tent with plywood flooring where other people had been for God knows how long. I was given a mask and oxygen tank and told someone would come and check my vitals.
At 1 pm I’m lying there soaking up the terrible conditions under a hot plastic tent with evidence of sickness and death all around. I could see them moving the guy next to me because clearly, he was dying.
All this time I’m growing increasingly more tired and exhausted, weaker and having serious difficulty breathing. The doctors, nurses and attendants. meanwhile, were providing yeoman service working in overwhelming conditions trying their utmost to save lives.
Tuesday, May 25
It’s Tuesday, May 25 at 2:45 am and this guy is lying opposite to me just staring at me. My first thought was why is this guy staring at me? But he wasn’t staring, he was dead.
He was removed from the bed and someone else immediately replaced him. Later that morning and with my condition now getting worst, I reached out to some family and friends for stuff that I needed and they did not hesitate. I had so much that I could have afforded to give those who seemed abandoned by their families.
Wednesday, May 26
It’s now Wednesday, May 26 at noon and by this time I’m so weak and out of breath I could not even go to the toilet, so I had no choice but to urinate in a bottle. Thank God, because I wasn’t eating any solids I did not have the urge to do any numbers.
Wednesday night it’s raining, the place is partly flooding and we’re cold. Two guys, Anthony Anderson and another man who is a police officer kept us upbeat with lots of ole talk since we couldn’t sleep.
Thursday, May 27
It’s the morning of Thursday, May 27 and my condition is getting worst. I could hear Dr Suratsingh telling another doctor about my worsening condition. Filled with consternation, I started preparing myself for the what I felt was coming–death
Friday, May 28
Friday, May 28 around 10:30 am I heard my name being called, I raised my hand and two ambulance attendants said ‘You’re being transferred to Couva Hospital.’ Those words began giving me a renewed will to live. I was placed in the ambulance and was on my way. Ironically, the only part of the journey I remembered was passing the Caroni bridge, I can’t recall anything after that, I probably passed out. I was told that upon my arrival at the Couva Hospital at 11:30 am they took my blood oxygen which was reading 88. Now the average human level is always 95-100 so in hindsight, I could have been partially living dead. The medical staff began treating me with medication through the IV, I was told. By 6:45 pm I awoke not knowing where I was and what had happened.
I realised I was in a room with three other men, I remember the nurses calling a gentleman by his name, Mr Chung. (He was discharged two days later, on Sunday, May 30 and sent home. I was happy for him.)
Saturday, May 29
On the evening of Saturday, May 29 a WhatsApp message sent to me shattered my world. I was unaware up to that time that my only sibling, my sister, Francia, 58, who also contracted COVID-19 had passed away since Friday, May 28, but family and friends kept that news hidden. That destroyed my confidence and I felt like I did not have any reason to live thereafter. I was shattered.
I called my aunty and she had no choice then but to tell me the truth. I also found out that my brother-in-law, Richard, 58, died from COVID too; they died two to three days apart. They left behind their two teenage sons. Devastated and traumatised by this news, I guess that caused my oxygen levels to drop again.
My sister was a very kind, soft, understanding and overly loving person. I used to be driving my car and just think about my sister and start to smile. My lovely Francia, my love, my life, my everything. Her husband was equally a nice person. He treated my sister with plenty of love, plenty of adoration, plenty of respect, they were well meshed, well put together as a couple and they were very very devout Catholics. Both Francia and her husband had not gotten their shots as yet.
When you talk about the relationship I had with my sister, in my 53 years I have never loved any human being like I loved my sister and now I know it will be a very big void in my life to fill. We spoke every day, sometimes twice a day and I enjoyed every conversation and especially those special moments we spent bonding on her porch in Arima when I visited.
I am going to hold on to those memories and cherish them.
Francia was my only sibling. I am an orphan now, I have nobody right now.
My sister left two beautiful teenage sons, and it will be a pleasure for me to assume the role of their guardian angel. I would like to take the lead in the care of my nephews.
On Saturday night around ten, still in deep grief over my sister’s death, not being able to say my last goodbyes and wondering what is my purpose for continuing to live, two other gentlemen and I were taken for CT scans and returned to our beds.
Sunday, May 30
By the afternoon of Sunday, May 30 the news wasn’t too good because it seemed the other two guys did not make it. All the while I kept asking myself, why am I still alive?
Monday, May 31
It’s now the morning of Monday, May 31 and Dr Rouse came to take my blood oxygen level, taking blood by injecting my wrist…let me tell you, it’s one of the most painful procedures, but I was warned. I was given lots of antibiotics through the IV and lots of other medications/tablets.
Tuesday, June 1
By the morning of Tuesday, June 1, Dr Ragbir changed my oxygen mask. Both herself and Dr Rouse are fantastic doctors and the healthcare system are much better for having them.
So it’s Tuesday evening and my oxygen levels are now hitting the high 90s but not yet 100, but I was breathing much better.
Wednesday, June 2
I was examined very early on the morning of Wednesday, June 2, my oxygen level was now back to 99/100 and Dr Rouse and Dr Ragbir advised that I will be removed from the oxygen. By noon there was talk of me being discharged.
It was great news for me, but I was very sad having to leave especially the three other ladies who were in the room. Although I never saw them because we were all behind blinds, my heart went out to them especially the lady lying opposite to me, because I listened to her husband on the phone the Sunday night and he made me cry when he was begging his wife to get better and come home. He kept telling her that neither he nor the children could live without her. That was very tough to endure. I had to put my hands over my ears so I could not hear what they were saying anymore.
I’m not sure what has happened but I’m hoping God spared her life and she’s either getting better or home.
It’s Wednesday evening and I have received my official discharge documents from the doctors. A tall attendant is wheeling me out…he asked me my age and I said 53 years and he then jokingly said, ‘In your 53 years, big man, I’m sure you were never this happy to see the sun.’ And he was so right.
Along the way, though, we came down to level two and I noticed there were tables in the corridor and I asked him what was all that and he told me not to look, it was then I realised it was dead people.
As we got outside before I departed the facility, he told me that I was the first living person he had brought outside for three days.
Now that I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having acquired COVID I just want to tell the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to please, please get vaccinated because it’s gonna help save your lives.
I’m just so happy to be alive and I will like to thank all my family friends and well-wishers for the continued prayer, support and words of encouragement.
Special thanks to all the people who were there for me during that trying time:
Miguel Paty for informing the group
Love you guys!
Tuesday, June 8
Tuesday, May 8 I am home and I am feeling a lot better physically but there is so much on my mind that I am having issues sleeping due to the level of trauma. Thankful that on Monday night, the first time since coming home, I was able to get close to five hours of sleep. I am hoping to get a little more sleep tonight.
The takeaway for citizens young and old
1. I wish I could go throughout the country and tell people to wake up and understand that had I not been vaccinated, I would have been dead. I would not have been able to break free from the clutches of this insidious virus. Use me, use my testimony. I would like to be the voice to champion the cause to let people in this country know the importance of getting vaccinated.
Had I not gotten the first jab of the vaccine chances are I would not be sitting here today alive. I would like to emphasise the need for citizens of T&T to get vaccinated. Unfortunately for me because I got my first vaccine and was then diagnosed with COVID, I now have to wait three months to get my second jab near the end of August.
2. People in T&T need to understand what fantastic medical professionals we have working on our behalf to ensure the people in their care become better. Having had the experience of both medical facilities, the Mt Hope and Couva facilities, I would personally like to thank Dr Suratsingh at Mt Hope and all the doctors, nurses and attendants because they are doing a tremendous job under very overwhelming circumstances. I would like to single out Dr Rouse, Dr Ragbir as well as all the nurses, the medical attendant, the cleaners and all who were very courteous, very helpful and very nice. These professionals, stretched beyond their limits, looked extremely tired and drained while working diligently to help save lives and they should all be applauded for this.
3. A brush with death always help us live our lives better. But I am appealing to you, do not wait for a brush with death to live better, love and cherish one another right now when we are strong and healthy. Live well today because tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Live in love, we are our brother’s keeper, we do not know when is the last day, hour or minute.