LONDON – Adrian Stanton was convinced that his coughing was simply because the season had changed and he was once again experiencing his normal cough and cold. The mental health nurse had no idea he would test positive for the dreaded COVID-19 virus.
Beginning his career in Barbados as a nurse at the Psychiatric Hospital in 1984, the Lodge School old scholar later moved to Tortola to take up a position there. When English hospitals visited Barbados to recruit nurses, he returned home for an interview, got the job and migrated to England in 2002, just as many other Barbadian nurses were doing. His first stint in England was with a female forensic hospital [a mental health facilty], before later moving on to Brixton Prison in South London.
Now managing the prison’s mental health patient care unit, Stanton recalled that in early April he felt very cold at work for two days but thought nothing of it.
“Whenever there is a change of season I get a cold and a cough which normally lasts three or four weeks, so I thought that was all it was.” But then, after waking up to “extreme soreness in my throat” a few days later, he gargled with warm, salty water and took the day off.
Even before the COVID onslaught, he was already using home remedies – garlic, ginger, lemon, honey and turmeric – so he continued, still thinking all would be well. “But when my staff started getting concerned about my coughing, I thought I should get tested; it was more to do with their anxiety than anything else.”
The next step was “a drive-thru test,” the 54-year-old explained. He contacted a hospital which had tents set up specifically for testing within its car park. When it was time for his appointment, he drove up to a tent and remained in his car while medical staff “swabbed my nose and throat – which was a bit uncomfortable – and said they would get back to me within 48 hours”. He was advised to remain indoors until his results came back.
“I was a bit anxious after the test but I thought it would’ve been negative. By the next evening, I got a call to say the test was positive.” As expected, he was told to stay at home and observe the guidelines from Public Health England and continue to self-isolate.
“It was difficult to even think about staying in the house for two weeks because I’m an outgoing person. And living in a flat without a garden made it even harder,” Stanton remarked.
Despite having long-term nasal problems, Stanton said he never had sleep issues prior to having the virus but his sleep pattern has now changed. “I used to go to sleep at midnight; sometimes 1 or 2 a.m., and could still function well the next day. Now I can hardly stay up after 10.30 p.m.” He no longer has the motivation to exercise.
Another symptom he endured during isolation was “nine days of breathing through my mouth because my nostrils were blocked and my throat was constantly dry. I had to drink lots of water and use a humidifier at night to keep my room moist. The days became longer and longer and the cough was ever-present.”
One of the things that proved just as difficult was telling his mother Grace that her only child had the virus, so instead he first told his son Dario and Dario’s mother who all reside in Barbados. He also informed his neighbours and left his door unlocked so someone would have access “just in case”. When he finally told his mom, “she actually took it better than I thought. She didn’t panic,” Stanton recalled.
Asked about what went through his mind during isolation, the veteran nurse confessed that his mind went from one end of the spectrum to the other. “There were times I told myself I’m going to live and beat this thing, but there were other times when I felt that I’m here today, but there is no guarantee of tomorrow.” The fact that a colleague had died the week before did not help.
One of the positives to come out of his illness, though, was realising how many people appreciated him and he is grateful for those relatives and friends. “Calls and texts came from all over. It was hard to manage all of them because if I had answered all of them during the day, I would have been up for 24 hours.”
At the end of two weeks, Stanton consulted his GP and returned to work. He still has a residual cough and does not feel as though he is “quite over it yet.” Another concern he has is that he was not re-tested despite asking to have this done, so “this brings about a level of anxiety,” he commented.
Confessing that his heart “is still in Barbados,” Stanton, who hails from Newbury, St. George, admitted, “there are times I think I would prefer to be there than here”.
His advice to fellow Barbadians: “This is an equal opportunity virus and it reaches across all classes and colours. The British Prime Minister was in hospital with it for two weeks. We have lost so many people in the UK, almost 30,000, and that includes medical professionals.
“People need to follow the Ministry of Health guidelines in Barbados. Barbados has done well to maintain a fairly low mortality rate. Listen to the Czar and don’t come into close proximity to anyone.
“Value your own life and other peoples’ lives as well. Wear your masks. This has changed our future and how we interact and engage with each other, but it’s all in an effort to save many more lives.”
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