Photo: Guyana Government Information. Delecia George pictured during her term of office as Prime Minister of Guyana leaving her official car.

Georgetown, Guyana–Former Prime Minister, Delecia George, 22, told her moving story after 35 days of isolation in a government health facility.

Delecia, a former Prime Minister of Guyana who held office for just one day when she was 18 years old, recovered from novel coronavirus (COVID-19) after 35 days of isolation in a government health facility. Her story was published in the Guyana government newsletter.

This is her story:

I should first tell you I am a banker, part-time Spanish tutor and Vice President of the Guyana National Youth Council (GNYC). In 2018 I was given the privilege to be Prime Minister for a day.

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 preventive measures; washing/sanitizing 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.

Isolation

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 had 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.

Being indoors for so long, I eventually realized 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 tranquility when my mind was not at ease, I did a few small sketches and coloring. But daily I reminded myself that this would not last forever

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.

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 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 Organization and your local Ministry of Health.

Wear a mask, wash/sanitize 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, utilize 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.

Editor’s note: Delecia has not indicated whether she plans to run for a second term as Prime Minister, but she has our vote for her bravery and positive attitude.