First patient to recover from virus begs J'cans not to discriminate

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

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AFTER hearing about his family's experience while he was in isolation, having tested positive for COVID-19, the man who is Jamaica's first patient to recover from the virus is begging his fellow countrymen not to discriminate against people who contract the disease.

The 31-year-old cruise ship worker's appeal follows his release from St Ann's Bay Hospital, where he had been in isolation for approximately 16 days, only fully recovering from the disease on the weekend.

“Just gwaan move safe and no bother discriminate against people, because it's not every time certain thing go as how it is said. People had it fi seh mi soon dead and all kind of things. So mi deh here strong a tell unnuh seh all is well, yeah. It's not a death sentence if yuh have it. Mi naah go seh that; it never kill mi,” the man, described by health officials as Patient 5, noted in an interview with the Jamaica Observer yesterday at his home in Harrison Town, St Ann.

He asked not to be identified, stating that his diagnosis has caused enough pain for his spouse and two children who not only had to endure the stigma associated with him testing positive, but were also the victims of burglary.

His spouse informed the Observer that while he remained in isolation, relationships with some residents in and around the community soured as rumours spread that she, too, had contracted the virus.

The woman, who works as a hairdresser in Ocho Rios, explained that she has had to self-isolate as a result of “hurtful” comments which, she said, have caused business to dry up.

She said her ordeal began days after her spouse returned to the island on February 25.

He had been based in Europe, travelled to Miami in the United States and then to Montego Bay.

“When him come he went to Portland (March 7) and I was talking to him on the phone and I realised he had a flu. I said to him 'Go to the doctor,' but he said 'It's just change of climate' so he don't want to go. So he was in Portland for a week and then he came back and I said to him, 'Yuh still not going to the doctor' and he said, 'No.' Then I tell him to go to the doctor and he went the 10th [of March],” the woman explained.

She said he complied and underwent several tests before being released the same day.

The woman said shortly after the tests were conducted, rumours began circulating that her spouse had tested positive for the virus.

“I asked him what went wrong, and he said when he went to the hospital they sent him back home... he said the doctor told him to leave. So I went back down there with him the Wednesday, the 11th, and they told me that it was a misunderstanding,” she said, noting that the man confronted health workers about the rumour that he had contracted the virus and was again told that there had been a misunderstanding.

She said the following day a nurse from the hospital contacted her, inquiring the whereabouts of her spouse and asked if he had left home at any point in time since being tested, before ending the call.

Later that evening the hairdresser said she received a second phone call from the nurse who again inquired about the man's whereabouts before advising that he was not to leave home as health officials would be visiting to transport him to hospital.

“So they came here about 2:00 am and pick him up. So they gone with him and I called back the nurse and seh 'What's really wrong?' and she told me they going to take him to the hospital and they going to tell him what happen, and he will call me back and tell me what's wrong,” she recounted.

She said around 9:00 am the nurse contacted her again and instructed her to remain at home.

At approximately 7:00 pm health officials transported the woman and her two children to the hospital where they were tested for COVID-19.

“We were there Saturday all day until Sunday the results come back and they tell us that we're negative so we could go. From that time this has been a big impact on my work and stuff, because people down there saying that we have corona. Nobody don't want to come into the shop with my co-workers and myself. Even now they are spreading rumours seh we have corona,” the woman lamented.

“Nobody call me from that about hair,” she added.

She told the Observer that thieves burglarised a section of her house last Friday at approximately 1:00 am, taking a cellphone, while she and her two children slept in her bedroom.

She said, too, that the response from the police was poor, sharing that when they arrived, they refused to leave their vehicle, opting, instead, to speak to her on the phone.

“They didn't even bring down the window. They called me on the phone while I was standing in the rain after 3:00 [am] trying to talk to them. They said it was government policy. They didn't come to dust for prints or anything. They said they would come back, but to this day they don't come,” she stated.

Equally, she claimed that she did not receive any of the care packages being delivered to residents, mentioning that she was told her vote was not in the constituency. She has been living in the area for 10 years.

“I just feel very relieved. Mi naah tell nuh lie. I feel much better fi know seh everything all right and him come out and can try make ends meet, because it not easy. I am not able to go to the [hairdressing] shop. I cannot make any money so to know that him okay I am very relieved,” she said.

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