Chik-V haven - Seaview among areas hardest hit by virus
Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
Violet Thompson was concerned but not particularly worried upon realising her baby grandson had a slight fever yesterday morning.
But by midday, when The Gleaner caught up with her at a bus stop in the community, the Seaview Gardens resident was in a hurry to get to the health centre, the toddler wailing inconsolably on her shoulder.
"Me notice him with a slight fever this morning, but the fever get higher now, and when him sleep and wake, him start to cry out. And just a while ago him cry out and start to shake," the 65-year old woman shared, obviously worried about her "year-and-some-months-old" grandchild.
As Thompson spoke with The Gleaner, the child let out a number of gut-wrenching wails, and his caregiver, unable to offer any comfort, breathed a sigh of relief and hurried to get on board when a Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) bus pulled up.
This is just one of the many suspected cases of the chikungunya virus, which has infected at least one member of every family in Seaview Gardens, residents told The Gleaner, with some even claiming a dog had been affected.
A visit to the community on the weekend would have found almost the entire community hobbling around like zombies, weakened as they were seemingly without the full use of their limbs.
The suddenness of the infestation and its debilitating impact on the body, no matter the state of one's physical health, was a common thread throughout reports of the disease, all the victims attesting to its crippling effects, though none of them had its presence confirmed by a medical doctor.
Panadol, Panadene and home remedies such as a tea brewed from a combination of papaya leaves and garlic were the effective cures by which the affected residents swore.
Aston 'Lee' Allen was in a good mood when The Gleaner caught up with him and was back to driving, something he had not been able to do since last Wednesday when he experienced a combination of symptoms that knocked him flat.
"Me get the headache, back, foot - everywhere pain up," he said. "Vomiting, diarrhoea, can't move, me cramp up so till. Me put me left hand pon the bed and me can't even lift it up."
Still, despite all this, he was not inclined to visit the doctor, admitting that "me never realise say it a go tek me serious".
By the next day, however, he was convinced otherwise.
"Thursday now me realise say me can't walk and Friday me get dizzy, dizzy. It come in like me can't even stand up. Bwoy me a tell you, from me born me never feel so much pain in all my life. Bossy, me a tell you seh one a di time me think a cripple me cripple. Me swear seh me cripple."
So did he go to the doctor?
"Me take some Panadene 7,
me nephew di have some true him did have (the sickness). Him say a it him use. Me tek about six a them and after that me take some Panadol. Me still come in like me have some aftershock but like today now me get up strong and fit and alright yah now."
Despite seeing her mother and others laid low by what they insist is chikungunya, Nickeisha Palmer demanded that her nine-year-old daughter, Jayda Williams, stop fooling around and head off to school, even though the child insisted she was feeling ill.
"Me say, 'Jayda, you a go school.' She seh say, 'Mommy, look like me a get chikungunya.' Me say no chik-V naw ketch you because me pray bout that a church. By time Jayda fi go through the door me see Jayda siddung out a door in her uniform pon the ground. Me say, 'Jayda, wha happen to you?' She say, 'Me cawn walk', so mi haffi go lift her up," the distressed mother shared.
"She nuh want nutten fi eat, she nuh want fi drink, she nu want do nutten at all - she just a bawl fi pain. Me haffi melt down the Panadol them and put down in her belly a likkle while ago," she continued. Before The Gleaner left, Jayda, though still very ill, had recovered enough to join her mother and grandmother.
As news of The Gleaner's presence spread, some community members went to get Rochelle Graham, who had been afflicted since Friday night and, like Lee, had not anticipated the severity of her illness. That is, until Sunday while on the job. Hobbling along the street to meet up with the crowd, the 21-year-old rested against a concrete wall, preparing to share her story.
"Pain, pain, pain," she started. "Mi back, foot, hand, all bout. I had fever Friday night and then yesterday at work I couldn't walk. My entire foot from the bottom come up numb, paining, and then last night 'til now me back literally feel like suppen a open up. My head, eyes, them just a pulp out. My fingers them numb, I can't hold anything."
Despite taking Panadol, Graham is yet to get any major relief.
"My back feels a little better, but if me stand too long or sit too long and me nuh lean back, it start hurt me again and me foot bottom them feel like them numb."
Robert Whyte, a 45-year-old construction worker, admitted he still felt very weak, despite getting over the worst of the symptoms which struck without warning Saturday night after coming off the road and settling to enjoy a meal.
He explained: "Me a eat some food and just find myself shake, shake, and me just start feel cold inna me body. And by the time me lay down, me start feel this heat a come outta me body and inna the night me joint them just start pain me and me feel tormented. Since morning now me have the diarrhoea and all of that ... ."
Explaining that most of the workers on the site at which he works had come down with chikungunya, for which their doctors had prescribed Panadol, he said he saw no need to seek medical attention, opting instead to follow his friends' advice.
"Well, a Panadol and Vitamin C, that's what everybody tell me I should take."
When The Gleaner visited the Seaview Gardens Health Centre, about 30 persons could be seen seated in the waiting area and, on explanation of the purpose of the newspaper's visit to a polite health aide, another woman advised that most of those waiting to see the doctor were suffering from the dreaded disease.
"A 10 people a my yard and all them have it," she shouted.
However, The Gleaner's efforts to get an expert opinion were foiled by the doctor on duty, who advised the health aide to tell the newspaper he was not allowed to speak.