Birthday cruise to Balandra: ‘Aunty Phylis’ shares COVID-19 journey

After recovering from a mild case of COVID-19 she contracted in March, one Arima woman is thankful for life.

The woman, who asked us to call her ‘Aunty Phylis’, was one of the 52 people who eventually tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Trinidad and Tobago in mid-March from the Carnival Corporation-owned Costa Favolosa cruise ship.

The seven-day cruise, which she had been planning for more than a year, was a gift to herself to celebrate her 60th birthday.

Speaking with Loop News after being discharged last week, she said contracting COVID-19 was an eye-opening journey.

She was taken to Camp Balandra directly from the cruise ship. After presenting with a fever one evening, she tested positive for the virus and was transferred to the Couva Hospital.

Luckily, she said, her symptoms were mild and not as severe as some other patients.

She said she experienced a fever for about two days that was worse in the evenings. She said she even lost her sense of taste and everything “tasted like board” for just a day.

One woman, she said, had to be put on a ventilator due to shortness of breath and had difficulty walking around on her own.

Aunty Phylis described the level of care from medical staff during the period of quarantine at the Camp Balandra, Couva Hospital and the Home of Football in Couva as nothing short of excellent.

“Our vitals were checked twice every day. The doctors and nurses treated us like family there. They explained to us why we were there and gave us words of encouragement.”

“They told us: Don’t worry, you’re here for a reason. You’ll get better, you’ll go home just now. They were really nice, and the encouragement was good.”

The accommodations at the step-down facilities were adequate and comfortable, she said.

At the Home of Football, she said she was able to move around the compound freely and had a room to herself, which was equipped with every convenience.

Taking note of complaints in the public domain from other patients who were eager to leave the step-down facilities and return home, she said while she understood their anxiety, quarantine was a necessary part of the process.

She said: “The quarantine is not something bad. It is necessary, once you do what you have to do and take the necessary precautions you will get your two negative swabs and will be able to go home.”

Aunty Phylis added: “Without the measures that would have been taken so far, we would be in a much different place than we are now.

It is better you are safe and free of the virus than you come out and infect your family. No one wants to see their family go through that. Some people were getting shortness of breath. It is not an easy thing to go through this. Some people were unable to even get up and walk.”

She commended Government for their efforts thus far to keep the virus spread low, but appealed to citizens to heed the advice from medical officials to do their part.

She urged people to adhere to the stay at home measures by only going out when necessary and follow guidelines set out by medical experts to engage in regular handwashing and wear masks when out in public.

“We need to listen and do the right thing. Some Trinis are just too harden. This virus is not an easy thing to go through.”

A devout Roman Catholic, Aunty Phylis credited her faith in God for helping her on this journey.

Her advice to others in self-quarantine: do the same things you would do under normal circumstances, but observe the one-week period of self-quarantine while at home with your family.

“My room is self-contained so I have everything I need. We (the family) know and understand this is what has to happen. We’re practicing social distancing and speaking with one another at a distance.”

“I’m involved in a lot of things, so I keep busy. I’m doing everything I would do normally.”

The 60-year-old woman urged people to keep active during this time and exercise, even if it’s just 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes again in the evening. 

She said: “You have to maintain your body and mind.”

Reflecting on her experience, she said she was thankful for all that was provided for her and the treatment she received.

She urged other patients to recognise the sacrifice of the healthcare workers because they are leaving their families to take care of them and make them better.

She also stressed the importance of compassion during this time as she noted that some of her colleagues had relatives abroad who contracted the virus and sadly passed.

“Pray with others, help them find solace. Call and talk – we have to be there for one another. Reach out and lend a hand. Even if it’s just to offer a word of comfort.”

As for what’s next now that she’s rested and things are basically back to normal, she said she plans to return to work once the lockdown is over. But, not before taking a vacation.

As of May 6, Trinidad and Tobago recorded 116 positive cases of the coronavirus. A total of 103 people have since been discharged. T&T has not had a new case of the virus in over a week. The number of related deaths still stands at eight; the last death reported was on April 6.

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