A 34-year-old Arima mother of one is calling for help in getting back to Trinidad and Tobago from the Bahamas where she is now battling cervical cancer alone in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Krissa Bissoon has been informed by her medical professionals that any delay in getting to Trinidad and Tobago where she may seek treatment is bringing her closer to death.
Bissoon has been granted an exemption to enter T&T by National Security Minister Stuart Young, but lacks the financial means to access a flight home, opportunities for which are already extremely scarce.
Though grateful for the support of persons she has met in the Bahamas where she was due to take up a job with a construction firm based in that country, Bissoon said she has no family or close acquaintances there.
Following the airing of her story last week, Bissoon was also this week terminated by her employers, with whom she had started work as a quantity surveyor.
Locally, the young mother has worked as a quantity surveyor on projects including the restoration of the Red House and Cabildo Building.
Having been confirmed by the company in February, she travelled to Nassau with the intention of being joined by her husband and five-year-old daughter.
Bissoon said she had been experiencing some pain prior and had a Pap smear conducted before heading to the Bahamas, which showed some cellular abnormalities.
She was asked by her employer to start work earlier than expected, and she went to Nassau on February 12 where she started work the following day.
On her gynaecologist’s recommendation, Bissoon set up a biopsy at a medical centre in the Bahamas which was carried out after several postponements.
The procedure left her bleeding and within days, she became extremely sick and weak.
She was taken back to her gynaecologist by her landlady, and it was recommended that she undergo a blood transfusion and cone biopsy. Following these procedures, Bissoon was told she had cervical cancer.
Tough on your own
Bleeding and in extreme pain, Bissoon said she only awoke in hospital some 24 hours before T&T’s borders were due to shut down, to nationals and non-nationals alike, on March 30.
“I was in hospital, I couldn’t get up and get on a flight,” she said.
Her family’s travel plans were also squashed and Bissoon has since been on her own.
She told the Express yesterday that while she is grateful for the support of her landlords in the Bahamas, she is now struggling to keep up with the rent and is strained at having to rely heavily on them, emotionally and physically.
She noted an announcement by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that T&T’s lockdown would continue until May 15, and reopening of the national community and the country’s borders was dependent on advice from health authorities as T&T moved into increased testing for Covid-19.
“It is painful to imagine that if the lockdown continues, I may have to be here alone for some time,” she said.
Bissoon said she was unaware of the nature of her illness prior to leaving for the Bahamas and at her age, did not assume she was about to battle cancer.
The cost of treatment in the Bahamas is prohibitive for her at this time, she said, as insurance coverage still cannot meet the estimated costs of all her procedures.
All explorations of possible flights home have also been too costly.
Bissoon told the Express: “I am in pain, almost constantly. I have to rely on my landlords for every kind of support, which is unfair to them.”
Surgery in the Bahamas to get her on the road to recovery is estimated at US$150,000, and she has been advised to return to T&T immediately for treatment. Funds have already been expended on CT (computerised tomography) scans and MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging).
“My oncologist has prescribed eight weeks of radiation and six sessions of chemotherapy, which is also very costly here,” Bissoon said.
She said the cost of living in the Bahamas was high, and she was further devastated yesterday when she received a letter from her doctors saying that, “…these delays may affect her chance of a cure and can worsen her prognosis and lead to an untimely death”.
The Bahamas is currently also on lockdown, and Bissoon said she has been unable to locate any persons or organisations in the Bahamas who might be able to assist.
“I am grateful for the support I have received, but technically, I am alone and at a time like this, it is really only family who can help you in the day to day,” she said, adding she tries to cope and has seen an increase in faith during this time.
“There are days that are bad; when I am in pain, I am unable to communicate properly…and you need family support at times like that,” she said.
Bissoon said any support and guidance—or assistance—that could be rendered by any individual or organisation would be a blessing at this time.
“Accessing and paying for a flight home seems out of my reach at this time,” Bissoon said. “I would very much like to come home and see my family and my daughter.”