COVID-19 survivor who was PM for a day talks about mental, emotional & physical impact of deadly virus
Twenty-two-year-old Delecia George is a COVID-19 survivor who spent 35 days of isolation in a Government health facility.
George is a banker, part-time Spanish tutor and Vice President of the Guyana National Youth Council (GNYC). In 2018, she was given the privilege to be Prime Minister for a day.
Now that she is COVID-19 free, George has broken her silence on how the deadly virus affected her mental, emotional and physical health while she was isolated from her family and loved ones.
Below you will find George’s story in her own words which was first published by the Department of Public Information:
When COVID-19 hit our shores, I was one of the many who lived in Kitty, Georgetown, what eventually became known as a hotspot for the virus. When the news of the first COVID-19 case in Guyana hit the airwaves, I immediately began practicing all the preventative measures; washing/sanitising my hands often, limiting my exposure by going out less and maintaining a work-to-home routine; social distancing at work, wearing a mask at a time when health officials deemed it necessary only for sick individuals and keeping my surroundings clean.
However, in early April the thing we most feared – the virus entered our home – my grandmother tested positive and myself and two siblings were considered primary contacts.
Headaches and loss of breath
Even before testing positive for the disease I began experiencing headaches, chest congestions and shortness of breath accompanied with flu symptoms. I visited a doctor and was diagnosed as having a “flare-up” of a pre-disposition – Asthma. I was given a medical notice for 14 days self-quarantine. But then alarms bells rang when I lost my sense of smell and taste.
Reaching out to a friend within the Health Ministry, I was advised to get tested for COVID-19. After I was swabbed there were follow ups from the Ministry’s surveillance unit.
Within two days’ of taking the test both my sister and I returned positive tests while my brother’s result was negative. Initially I was calm, but after being admitted to an isolation facility and time passed, I became anxious and panic attacks crept in. Then the mental breakdown began.
The first 14 days in isolation, I struggled to adjust to living in a government institution. Both my 13-year-old sister and I were housed at the Diamond Diagnostic Centre on the East Bank of Demerara.
I had to be strong for both of us, since my sister did not have the mental capacity to cope with the fact that she had tested positive for a new and emerging deadly disease and depended on me.
I was placed in an area with migrants and my first couple of days were noisy and restless. As a result, I lost my appetite; eventually, I was moved to a quieter area. The isolation facility provided for no WiFi and no recreational activities. The most exercise I was allowed was to walk to the facility’s gate and back to my room.
Some days the quality of food was good and then some days it was not. Somedays the facilities were cleaned properly, some days they were not!
Often, I could not eat the food because it was not what I was accustomed to and this eventually resulted in minor stomach aches acid reflux. Coupled with this were the continuing symptoms of headaches, flu and difficulty breathing. Sleeping was uncomfortable because I would often toss and turn trying to find a comfortable position that allowed me to breath easily
It began to take a toll on my mental health.
Adjusting physically and mentally
Being indoors for so long, I eventually realised there was no other choice but to adjust and find new ways to get by daily.
In isolation I turned to my responsibilities as the Vice-President of the Youth Council, and a Spanish tutoring, to keep from sinking into deeper depression. The mobile data my family ensured I had to stay in touch, allowed me to host virtual sessions which served as a means of staying connected with the outside.
I also tapped into my inner artist, something that I was not fond of in school but it provided tranquillity when my mind was not at ease, I did a few small sketches and colouring. But daily I reminded myself that this would not last forever.
The new normal
On May 22, 2020, when I walked out of the Diamond Diagnostic Centre as a COVID survivor, I was above all things, happy to be finally going home. The thought of having a change in scenery and the opportunity to have a fresh breath of air meant everything to me. I had a better appreciation for life.
My sister would join me four days later.
Returning to my job at the bank was no easy hurdle to get over. The stigma attached to the COVID-19 followed me even though further tests indicated that I could no longer transmit the virus.
Nevertheless, fueled with perseverance, I returned to my life but with changes in the way I treated my health, the people I interacted with and the long-term decisions I make because these will all have an impact in my life.
COVID-19 can be stopped but only if everyone follows the necessary health guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health in Guyana.
Wear a mask, wash/sanitise your hands, stay home, ensure to keep your environment clean. Self-isolate even with minor symptoms such as cough, headache, mild fever, until you recover. Have someone bring you supplies, utilise online platforms to pay your bills.
We need to have a different approach to dealing with the virus, if we are to reduce the rate of transmission in the country. As responsible citizens we must adhere to the guidelines and not get caught.
Note: Ongoing research indicated that a person can recover from the COVID-19 within 14 days however for most persons who contracted the disease it takes longer.