In this installment of Our Stories, Sandra shares how she survived the Coronavirus. For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience…this is Our Stories!
Meet Sandra Walker – a mom, a sister, a bank teller, a Coronavirus survivor
Sandra, a woman born in the 1960s was just your typical everyday Jamaican woman who went to work on a daily basis and then enjoyed her alone time at home. Then the Corona Virus pandemic hit and everything changed. Like everyone else, she adhered to the safety precautions advised by the government, by practicing social distancing and staying home as much as was possible. But Sandra is a bank teller so she is an essential worker and she still had to go to work. Not long after, she realized she had a runny nose and her sinuses were feeling stuffy. Although she knew that the Coronavirus was at large, she couldn’t imagine catching it as the only places she went to was work and home. She went to her doctor because of her symptoms and he decided to run a Corona Virus check on her just in case. When the results came back to confirm the virus she was in utter shock.
When spoken to in an interview, Sandra willingly shared her experience with the Corona Virus.
- How has your experience been during the Corona Virus pandemic?
Oh, it hasn’t been too great to be honest. Like so many persons worldwide, I actually caught the virus. I was still going to work after we heard about the pandemic and quarantine and I felt that I was safe and I was okay because it wasn’t too bad in our country, but not that long after I guess I was proved wrong. I was feeling fine really, but my nose was a little runny and my sinuses were giving me a little problem so I took some medications to see how it would pan out, but it didn’t seem to be working so went to the doctor to get some new meds. It didn’t even occur to me that it might be Corona because I wasn’t really feeling sick and you hear on the news the typical symptoms people have and how it’s painful and all that and that wasn’t my experience. So my doctor sorted the meds and then he just said he’d do a Corona check just in case. When the results came back I was in for the shock of a lifetime. I just didn’t even know what to do. They quarantined me at the hospital and I was there for about a week. It was awful and that was just earlier on in the quarantine.
- What was it like in the hospital?
I was scared. I didn’t really have any human interaction while I was there. The doctors and nurses only came by to do routine checks as they had other patients to deal with and whenever I called relatives I could barely even talk to them because I felt so out of breath and weak. I remember thinking that I might die here alone. I got constant panic attacks as the overbearing fear crept in.
- Were you concerned about catching it before you did?
No. I wasn’t too worried about it. I knew I had some underlying diseases that people always talk about being dangerous during COVID. I have high blood pressure, diabetes; I have sickle cell traits plus two autoimmune diseases, but I was sure I would have been fine. I didn’t even have anyone to worry about either; my parents are already dead and my son is a big man now at 30 and he’s living in Japan with relatives.
- How did you feel after recovery?
I was glad to be out of the hospital and I did additional self-quarantine at home. I was relieved to be alive. And that was when I had called my son to let him know what was going on and that I was now safe. It was a good feeling.
- How has your experience affected you mentally?
Now I just feel anxious all the time. I’m somewhat overly cautious and I feel tense, nervous, and emotionally distressed. I’m afraid of catching corona again so I don’t even really leave my house anymore. I only leave the house for 3 reasons; to get check-ups from my doctor to ensure I’m still Corona free, to go grocery shopping where I always buy 2 or more weeks’ worth of groceries and when I’m getting gas at the gas station. That’s it. And when I leave the house I realize I get a little agitated. I ensure I’m fully suited up. I sanitize everything and every surface that I come into contact with and I’m ready to practice social distancing. I like to tell people to get back when they’re getting too close.
- How do you feel when you have to go outside?
Oh, I dread every minute of it. Every time I think about having to go outside for whatever reason, it’s like I’m in a near panic because I don’t want to catch it again. I now have what I like to call my ‘Corona Kit’ that I have on me at all times when I go outside that includes sanitizers, masks, gloves and other protective gear.
- Were you typically an outdoorsy person?
No, I wasn’t. I would only check in with my family occasionally and the only place I really went to was work and home. Being inside a lot is normal for me.
- Have there been any downsides to being at home more often?
I just get bored a lot now and I’ve started feeling lazier, but that’s it.
- Have you resumed working?
No. I heard that another co-worker contracted the virus as well so I decided to take an additional leave of absence. I was to resume working in July, but I’m still a little on edge so I’ve extended my leave to return in September instead.
- How do you cope?
I mean, I try to cope with all this bundle of nerves that seems to have overtaken my life by reassuring myself each time that I’ll be okay and I’m safe. I’ve also replaced watching the news with some entertaining TV like comedies and drama because the news has started making me feel anxious and depressed due to the climbing rates of the Corona Virus. I’ve also begun to talk with my family more frequently and they constantly encourage and support me emotionally which makes me feel better. When I’m at home though, I just feel safer and more at peace.
- Did you have any mental health problems before?
No, I didn’t. I wasn’t really someone who was typically anxious or someone who really worried about a lot of things, but now I’m still trying to get back to my normal self after recovering.
- What would you say to persons about the virus?
I’m still a little short of breath sometimes and I was one of the lucky ones who recovered and my symptoms weren’t that bad, but I wouldn’t wish the Corona Virus on anyone and I pray I’ll never get it again. Persons should take this virus seriously even though they might be healthy they could die.