Two weeks ago when Barry Downes returned to Miami, his mother, Jennifer Boyce never imagined that he wouldn’t come back alive.
But on Sunday, the man whom scores of Barbadians often leaned on for help when stranded in the U.S, joined a growing number of Barbadians abroad who have lost the battle to COVID-19.
The American Airlines Customer Service Representative who suffered from heart problems and diabetes had been on sick leave in Barbados since February. But on March 23, he took a potentially fateful decision to return to the U.S for an important medical procedure.
“From day one, we asked God to take charge and take over and whatever he does is well done,” said his sobbing mother, who on Monday afternoon was too distraught to speak at length.
But Barry’s stepfather Adrian Boyce admitted to having reservations about his travel plans amid the ongoing pandemic.
“We had reservations about him going back, but he had a doctor’s appointment for underlying heart problems and diabetes so that’s why he went back up,” said the grieving stepfather.
Downes was admitted to a Miami hospital last Monday and by Tuesday he had tested positive for COVID-19. The chilling news sent shockwaves through the hearts of family and friends in Barbados and abroad who had been “hoping against hope and praying until the end”.
Over the five days that followed they endured a rollercoaster ride of emotions as Downes appeared to be getting better, before taking a heartbreaking turn for the worst on Sunday.
“I spoke to him on Tuesday night and he just told us that he had been diagnosed and he was in the hospital getting the treatment and we told him to hang in there. He wasn’t too concerned at that point because he really wasn’t that bad,” said Boyce, from their West Terrace, St. James home.
“We were just hoping for the best, because we knew he had challenges, but at the same time, we were listening to the health officials who said that persons with those sorts of challenges are more susceptible to catching the virus and not doing well,” he added.
Family members told Barbados TODAY that Barry started working with AA in 1992 at the Grantley Adams International Airport and moved to the U.S in 1998 when he was offered a position at the airline’s Miami International’s airport hub.
There, he quickly became known as the person whom any Barbadian could call on if they became stranded in Miami.
“Any person who was in trouble or was bumped off of their flight, he would take them home and put them up. He would go out of his way to help any Barbadian. So many people have bunked at his home because they were unable to catch a flight,” she revealed.
In February, Downes was one of many recipients of the St Peter: We Gatherin’ 2020 Pride of Barbados Award. He was on hand to receive his award from Prime Minister Mia Mottley for service to his community.
The well-loved man leaves his 16-year-old son, Brandon to mourn along with numerous members of his extended family still living in the Ashton Hall, St. Peter hometown.
“We want to thank God for the 49 years that Barry spent with us. Barry lived his life to the fullest while helping others. Barry did it his way and we want to thank God and all the people who rallied around him and we want to say to God be the glory and we know right now Barry is in the arms of Jesus,” his mother concluded. [email protected]
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