Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Suleiman Bulbulia
My motivation for my column today comes from a well-written piece carried in Barbados TODAY on February 22, 2021 titled “Don’t stigmatise COVID-19 patients: my perspective”. The unnamed author started off by stating: “I survived COVID-19, but not the shaming…”
It provides a much needed perspective on how to treat with persons who have tested positive for COVID-19, and the challenges faced by some who contract the virus and
The Covid-19 virus has caused fear, anxiety and discomfort for many if not all persons in every part of the world. It is a dreaded virus and the deaths, disruption in our lives and the effect on so many financially is unprecedented in our generation.
These anxieties are compounded by an overactive social media that spreads news, truth and fake so rapidly that we are left further bewildered. Testing positive for COVID-19 is dreaded by everyone. I am sure no person in their right mind would wish to test positively for the virus.
Getting the test is the first anxious moment, awaiting the results the second, and the longer those results take to come back the pressure builds up. And getting back a positive result even more traumatic.
In Barbados unlike many parts of the world, if one is tested positive, you are taken to an isolation facility for observation and treatment. That idea of being removed from one loved ones is in itself a dreaded experience.
The preparation to get picked up will take its toll on the individual. And if one lives in a close-knit neighbourhood then having to board the vehicle in full view of one’s neighbours makes it much more distressing.
I experienced it all having tested positive for the virus some weeks ago. My case is strange as I neither had symptoms, wasn’t ill nor was I in contact (as far I know) with a known positive. I simply went for a test because I wanted
to get an X-ray.
Getting the test was a task in itself as it took me an entire day at the Polyclinic to get it done but I appreciate we are in a pandemic and so it can’t be business as usual. Most of the attendees at the clinic were friendly and caring.
The process could have been better organized in terms of persons understanding fully what was required rather than just waiting around. But I understand that is not the case at all venues and in some places it is much better facilitated.
Anyway, by 5 p.m. I got my test done. My results came back four days later and shocked me as I was told I was positive.
The guy on the other end of the line was extremely hospitable and reassuring.
He explained that my immediate household had
to self-isolate and be tested. I was told to prepare myself to be picked up for transfer to St. Lucy.
What was extremely helpful was speaking to someone I knew who had gone through the entire process. She explained what to expect, what to carry and what to do. That made a big difference and eased my mind considerably. But the idea of getting picked up and leaving my family was distressful but faith and courage will get you through.
I was picked up the next day and travelled along with several others, none of whom I knew, to St. Lucy. There we were met by the staff who all were reassuring and welcoming.
We were placed into rooms with others. I shared the room with three others and we have become friends and stay in touch.
The facility at St. Lucy is comfortable and offers the basic amenities. The medical staff were pleasant and while everything wasn’t perfect it is much better than what one may have expected at a health facility.
Barbadians should take pride in what the Government has chosen to do in this pandemic with regards to isolation facilities. Because I wasn’t showing any symptoms or illness I didn’t stay too long there or at the other facility I was transferred to for the remaining period.
The dread, fear, distress were all alleviated by the caring doctors and staff at the facility and at every step along the process. I appreciate that my experience may not be same as others who may have encountered unpleasant interactions. As I said it wasn’t all perfect but it was much better than expected.
Given all of that the writer of the piece that motivated me made an important point: “an isolation centre is not a “holiday camp” where there are so many fun activities available you never want to leave!
It can be a sad and lonely place where you spend lots of hours ruminating on how you got there in the first place, how serious your condition really is, and how soon you will be allowed to leave.”
And that is so true. Some of us in there were more ill than others and we worry. In my time there were some deaths. These happenings create further emotional turmoil. For me what got me through was faith, prayer and belief that whatever happens it is by the will of the Creator. Also the reaching out by family and friends who were genuinely concerned made a big difference. As well as the camaraderie among the patients at the facility. That is the Barbadian spirit at its best.
And that is where we need to be as a people and that is why the author of the piece made the important point “It is wrong to “blame and shame” patients who would have just had to deal with the fact that they overcame a condition that could have been fatal by telling them, “if you had washed your hands more regularly or worn a face shield with your mask, or not talk to anyone in close quarters without a mask, this would never
“Those arguments are unreasonable, unfair, and unfounded. Let us face it: there are people who eat “all the right foods”, exercise every day, don’t drink alcohol or smoke anything legal or otherwise, take all of their vitamins, yet they still get heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and cancer.
Unlike other conditions, you cannot accurately pinpoint exactly where or from whom you contracted coronavirus, especially if you are constantly on the move and interacting with hundreds of people on a daily basis.”
My case fits perfectly into that scenario and I too faced that stigma from persons who I would have expected differently. Navigating the positive virus result, isolation and then stigma from persons who I never expected would display such have their emotional repercussions. Some may be able to handle but others will find it challenging.
We are in a pandemic and I guess for many it is extremely difficult times. Our humanity will be tested significantly. These times will require from us the best of our humanity to shine.
Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace; Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association; Muslim Chaplain at the U.W.I, Cave Hill Campus and Chair, Barbados Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition. Email: [email protected]otmail.com