She thought she was doing everything she was supposed to do, but ended up testing positive for the dreaded coronavirus.
And immediately, she was overcome with a flood of emotions ranging from anxiety to fear to confusion, panic and even guilt.
Lana Jones, 38, who spent a few of her isolation days at Harrison’s Point before being transferred to the isolation facility at the Blackman and Gollop Primary School, shared her experience with Barbados TODAY.
She said contracting the virus has made her even more emotional, as looking back at the experience triggers tears.
Jones said: “I cry because I am so grateful that I made it and I wasn’t severe. Can you imagine people who had severe symptoms and made it.
“The other day, the BDF ambulance was driving on the highway and I immediately burst into tears. I couldn’t believe at one point I was in there. I said to myself ‘look, that is me there’, and I started to cry. I cry at the smallest things when I see certain things on TV with people talking about COVID.”
Jones, a face and body painter, was doing her craft at a west coast party at the end of December, where she believed she contracted the virus.
She said: “I would have been coming into very close contact with patrons at this event. It was a 40th birthday party with limited numbers and so I felt comfortable accepting the opportunity.
“I went as normal with my kit that had in my temperature gun, rubbing alcohol, contract tracing clipboard and everything you can think about to protect myself including my mask.”
But she suspects that not wearing her face shield may have resulted in her contracting the virus since no one who received face painting wore a mask as she applied the makeup, and they would still engage in conversation.
Jones recalled: “Even though I had on my mask there were points where my eyes would have been exposed. I did have my sunglasses on but as evening drew nearer I did take them off and continued to work, not realizing I was putting myself at risk.”
It was two days later that one of her clients contacted her to let her know someone from the event had tested positive.
“I went into a complete panic mode because in my mind I was thinking ‘I was there’,” said Jones, who later found out she was not in direct contact with the individual.
But she still called her doctor to find out if she should get tested and after careful consideration, Jones, who described herself as very persistent, decided she wanted to be tested “for peace of mind”.
It was the next day she went to a polyclinic for a COVID-19 test and then she started having concerns about a runny nose, which she passed off to be the effects from the swab since she still had a normal temperature.
“I got a call from the doctor 12 hours later and he said to me, ‘you are positive’. In that moment I froze because I did everything that I was supposed to do to protect myself and my family. My first instinct was, how am I going to tell my partner who is at risk?’,” she said.
The mother of a three-year-old son said they immediately “went into isolation mode” at home.
“I cried for six hours. I was inconsolable. It was more about fear and panic and then guilt because I felt that I could have worn my face shield and why didn’t I,” said Jones.
She kept thinking to herself “why was this happening to me” and felt she was in “a twilight zone”.
Jones was whisked away around midnight to the Harrison’s Point facility in St Lucy, without the opportunity to kiss her partner and her son goodbye.
She did not experience any symptoms up to the point she was tested. While at the isolation facility she experienced loss of taste and smell, headaches, a dry cough and “major skin pain”, all of which would come and go or happen simultaneously at some point.
“To put it into perspective, it felt like I had dengue fever times ten. My joints hurt me.” she said.
“All the symptoms I got I developed while in isolation which is critical. That is why when the doctors tell you that the earlier you catch it the better it is because you can arrest the spread quickly. That is why we need to be proactive,” she said, adding that “timing is everything”.
After about five days at Harrison’s Point, she was transferred to the Blackman and Gollop facility where she spent the rest of her isolation days.
Jones said: “I generally and genuinely felt that even though I didn’t have the severe symptoms, the fear had me ‘grabble up’ because every day I would think ‘am I going to get worse, am I going to get worse?’ and then I started going down this spiral of guilt of ‘did I infect my family’?”
So far, both of her partner’s tests came back negative and the first test for her son is negative but a second test result is yet to be returned.
A COVID-free Jones was released from isolation last Wednesday.
She is one of several people who have chronicled parts of their experience on social media.
In one of her videos, she showed a plate of spaghetti and chicken with broccoli, a digestive biscuit and a small juice box and an empty container of coleslaw.
Jones dismissed any notion that the food at the facility was horrible, saying it was “not bad” and the only reason she would not eat it some days was because of her loss of taste and smell or the fact that she just felt like eating fast food.
“I honestly cannot say I had a problem with the food. And let us be real, Harrison’s Point is not a hotel, it is a medical facility,” she added.
Perhaps two of the things that touched her most were the connections she formed with some people while in isolation and experiencing first-hand, the labour of the frontline medical care workers.
Jones told Barbados TODAY: “Those nurses and doctors are real-life heroes.
“I cannot explain to you how many different personalities these persons are coming into contact with every single day. They are trying to please everybody and they are trying to remain professional.
“They also have feelings. They are doing their job and trying to please everybody, it is a difficult job. I have nothing but admiration and respect for our frontline workers.”
Though pointing out that “for the most part” people have been very supportive, she agreed that Barbadians needed to be more educated on the virus.
Her advice to residents is to continue to adhere to the protocols: “Keep your distance, wear your mask and if you are interacting with people who are not wearing a mask you need to wear a face shield along with your mask.”
The St Peter resident said she also wanted residents to be more supportive of those who have tested positive because they needed all the support they can get given the weight they carry mentally, and since contracting the virus was not always a fault of their own.
She explained that the physical pain she felt was in no comparison to her mental state, which was constantly rocked by a mix of emotions on any given day.
She believed the issue of mental health should be taken more seriously, adding that she was now undergoing some counselling.
Jones admitted to taking pain killers every night “just so I could sleep, just so I could not feel pain and just so I could wake up in the morning and feel like I had a good night’s rest”.
She added: “Literally, one day I was good then the next day I was at Harrison’s Point. So the fear was heavy from the beginning, the guilt was heavy from the beginning and the anxiety was high from the beginning.
“The first night I was at Harrison’s Point I remember closing my eyes and saying ‘Lord, if you are going to carry me ‘long, carry me ‘long’. That was because of the fear. But when I woke up the next morning I said out loud ‘thank God I have woken up’ because you don’t know what is going to happen.” ([email protected])