'COVID is no joke'


'COVID is no joke'

Recovered St Elizabeth councillor tells of his bout with the deadly virus

Editor-at-Large, South Central Bureau

Friday, September 25, 2020

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Christopher Williams won't readily forget Sunday, August 23.

That was the day the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor for the Santa Cruz Division took part in a “drive through” of St Elizabeth North Eastern, alongside party leadership at constituency and national levels.

It was all part of the political campaign for the September 3 parliamentary election, which ended in a massive 49-14 victory for the Andrew Holness-led JLP.

Among the election prizes for the JLP was St Elizabeth North Eastern — won by businessman Delroy Slowley. It was the first time the JLP was winning that seat in a contested election since 1980.

So busy was Williams during that drive-through on August 23 that he “didn't eat anything all day”.

When he woke up very early Monday morning, August 24, with the most excruciating bellyache he had ever experienced, Williams immediately thought he was paying the price for not eating the day before.

According to him, the pain in his lower abdomen was so severe he ended up rolling on the floor.

Then, half an hour after being awakened by the bellyache, Williams said he was hit by the worst headache of his life.

“It was like my whole head was coming off,” said the parish councillor. “I am accustomed to migraine headaches and for that Panadol [painkillers] always work for me, but now nothing helped,” said Williams.

Then came severe vomiting and diarrhoea. In all his 39 years, Williams had never been so sick.

He felt he had no choice but to visit a doctor, who told him he had picked up a gastro-related viral infection and prescribed medication.

But come Monday evening, Williams found himself roasting with fever, lasting into Tuesday morning. To compound matters, though the bellyache was gone, his entire midsection felt “unsettled” and strange, early Tuesday.

That's when he called his mother, who is a health worker in the United States. After a long discussion, his mother told him he should go and get himself tested for the novel coronavirus, as the symptoms he was describing sounded suspiciously like those she had come across in COVID-19 patients at her place of employment.

Williams made contact with public health authorities in St Elizabeth, and within hours did a sample test for the new coronavirus. Within a few days the result came back. He was positive.

By midweek, Williams had developed a sore throat so painful he “cried for two days”. Alongside that was a dry, rasping cough that seemed to tear at the core of his chest. The dry cough lasted for 12 days.

Also traumatising was a “total loss of appetite” for the duration of the period he was sick. For most of the 19 days he was in isolation, he was unable to take more than “a couple of spoonfuls” of soup, porridge and “strong” tea.

“I lived on coconut water, juice and Gatorade,” he said.

By the time he was finally cleared of all COVID-19 symptoms on September 12, Williams had lost 20 pounds.

“I weighed 188 pounds when I got sick; when I got my certificate clearing me of COVID, I weighed 168 pounds,” he said.

After the discussion with his mother on the second day after falling ill, Williams had moved swiftly to protect family, friends and others by isolating himself — cutting all physical contact.

At home, he stayed in his bedroom and had food and other necessities delivered by family members outside his door.

“We had an arrangement where a chair was always outside my door. They would bring stuff and leave it on the chair and then call or text me that it is out there,” he explained.

But he soon found loss of contact with others — especially his two children — next to unbearable. There were times he felt he was losing his mind, he said.

In the aftermath of his bout with COVID-19, Williams says he is totally dedicated to trying to get people to take the threat posed by the virus seriously, and to take preventive measures, including mask-wearing and physical/social distancing.

He has taken to handing out masks and to providing counselling when he sees people walking around without facial protection.

He says he keeps telling business people, in Santa Cruz and elsewhere, to insist that their customers and employees wear masks.

“I wouldn't want my worst enemy to contract COVID-19,” he explained.

Williams believes it was a moment of carelessness — when he let down his “guard” sometime in August — that led to him contracting the virus.

The way he tells it, since the threat posed by the new coronavirus became apparent, he had followed recommended protocols — wearing masks, keeping social distance and encouraging others to do likewise.

But then, in one particular social setting, he relaxed too much and allowed his “mask to slip beneath his chin”. He believes that was when he contracted the virus. He said he made a report to health authorities after becoming aware of his own positive test in order to protect others.

He feels proud that up to now there is no evidence that anyone in his family or anyone who travelled in his car during campaigning caught the infection from him.

However, one of his close contacts also contracted the virus.

“That person never got as sick as me,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

“I was always very careful,” he said. “Even before I got sick, during the election campaign, I would make sure I had masks to give to others, to people entering my vehicle, and so forth,” he said.

The bottom line, Williams wants everyone to treat COVID-19 with the utmost seriousness.

“This thing is no joke,” he said.

Up to Wednesday, Jamaica had recorded 76 COVID-19 deaths and more than 5,000 cases in total.

Globally, COVID-19, which first surfaced in China late last year, has resulted in excess of 980,000 deaths and more than 32 million infections.

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