Tue | May 11, 2021

The horrors of having COVID-19 - Two Jamaicans share their experience of contracting the coronavirus

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2021 | 12:13 AMMark Titus - Senior Staff Reporter
Heather Hayles
Heather Hayles
My bush remedy worked not only for me, but for my entire family of four who also caught it.
My bush remedy worked not only for me, but for my entire family of four who also caught it.
With this talk about vaccine right now, we need antibody testing before we take that vaccine
With this talk about vaccine right now, we need antibody testing before we take that vaccine
Many people have COVID but not going to do the test, because there is a stigma.
Many people have COVID but not going to do the test, because there is a stigma.
Heather Hayles
Heather Hayles
Melbourne Foster
Melbourne Foster


For more than a year, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been spreading across the world at a rapid pace, leaving devastation in its wake. Yesterday, the global death toll surpassed two million persons from more than 93 million cases. More than 51 million persons have so far recovered.

Locally, up to Friday Jamaica recorded 14,096 cases and 323 deaths; 11,674 persons have recovered.

The stories of the recovered have both inspired and scared the world, as some have bounced back from the dreaded disease with little or no lingering effects, while others have tales of horror months after contracting the disease.

Each person has his or her own story of living with COVID-19. Here, two Jamaicans share detailed accounts of what life has been like for them after getting the respiratory illness.

COVID is no joke; bush remedy saved me

Heather Hayles – 51-year-old tax accountant

I am a proud Jamaican from the parish of St James. I basically share my time between Jamaica and New York.


When the coronavirus emerged at first, because it was the movie stars and the elite who were contracting it, I thought it was not for me. I did not know it would affect me.

But then I caught it from someone who went through the airport, and then I realised that it had no status, it just depends on where you are at the time, how much you are exposed and to what extent you are protected.

I caught it, along with members of my household in New York, from a family member who came up from college in the south.

The symptoms started off with a lot of headaches, then I lost my sense of taste and smell. Then the chest pains started, then came the nausea where you basically feel like you are losing it ... your memory, just everything, seem to be collapsing.


I decided to use home remedy to treat it, because basically I would take up my bush and so with me when I am coming from Jamaica. So I started by taking my bissy in a tea form and then I had the guinea hen root soaked in white rum. I took a couple teaspoons of that with honey and lemonade, then I would do the facial steam.

I also did a blend of cayenne pepper, ginger, garlic, cucumber and apple cider vinegar, and I would take a shot of that morning and evening, so that was the ultimate immune booster. Then I would take a lot of citrus and lots of hot beverages, like fish head soup with carrots, celeries and chocho, stuff like that.

Then I would exercise, because it was imperative to keep moving, because my chest felt like it was crystallising.

I then did my antibody test.

I had COVID intensely for just five days, then everything faded out within two weeks.

My bush remedy worked not only for me, but for my entire family of four who also caught it. It also worked for a close friend of mine, who has one lung and she is an oncology nurse. When her daughter called me over, she was wringing in pain, and based on the symptoms, I knew that it was COVID-19 so I shared my remedy.

I put her in the shower, steamed her, then gave her the elixir with the garlic, cucumber and all that stuff, and steamed her with orange peel – I just poured the orange peel in a pot, add some Vicks Vapor Rub, placed her head over the pot and steamed her until she was dripping in the face.

A country mi grow up, in Chester Castle, and when my mother used to give us lime leaf tea, we would frown upon it. We now realise that she was unknowingly preparing us for days like this. These things do work; this is now my lifestyle, even now more than ever.


The shocking part of it was when I lost my mother at the end of May and I applied to come into the country but I could not come in with my US documents, so I had to come in locally, and when I got here, the level of ignorance by our officials was alarming. When I got to the airport, I informed them that I had already contracted COVID and no one wanted to hear. I had to be tested before I left the US, and I had my positive antibody documentation and my negative COVID results, but they did not want to hear it. I showed them the document and they did not even look at it, I just had to do the test and that was torture.

They pushed a swab to the back of your nostril. It stick so hard that my eyes watered immediately, because it disrupted my sinus glands and for days I was sore.

They sent me to take the test, it came back negative and I was quarantined.

In no part of the documentation to come in Jamaica or any of their correspondence did they ask if you were confirmed for COVID at any point. It simply asked you if you have ever been exposed to anybody with COVID, so I am expecting that the next question should be “have you ever contracted it”.

This is the biggest contention in Jamaica because they keep testing folks and it is coming back negative. If they test me a million times it is coming back negative, but if I do antibody testing it is going to come back positive because I still have the virus in my blood, so the test that we are lacking is the antibodies testing.

In fact, with this talk about vaccine right now, we need antibody testing before we take that vaccine.

I went to donate blood at Cornwall Regional Hospital and they have no clue what is going on.

I believe the number of COVID cases in Jamaica far exceeds what is being reported. Jamaica needs the antibody test to know their true status, because you could have it now and don’t know that you have it.

My word to my fellow Jamaicans is that they should use the power of the Internet to educate themselves about the virus, ignore the gossip sites, because COVID is no joke.


Tan a yuh yaad if you don’t want COVID

MELBOURNE FOSTER – 59-year-old real estate salesman

I was born in Mount Salem, Montego Bay, where I still reside.

Prior to COVID, I have always been in good health, except for two days which is so long ago I can hardly recall.


I could see the dangers and the impact the virus could have on our economy, I could foresee the impact based on how prepared we were.

Personally, based on the environment I am living in, I try not to interact with too many people. I observe the healthy things to do, such as proper hygiene.

The real estate business has a lot of interaction with people, and many of our investors in real estate have taken a wait-and-see approach. In sales, a lot of people thought that the price of things was going to go down because of COVID, and they would begin to get things cheaper, but that has not materialised. In evaluation, our clients, in protecting themselves, don’t want to expose themselves to visits, so even our evaluation reports have far less pictures than usual.


When I got sick, I did not know what it was. I have a heart condition – irregular heartbeat – arrhythmia. So I went to work, but did not spend all day. I went home and because the kids were to take in their books to school to mark, I accompanied them near their school but decided to wait on them on the outside, so I sat down and I fell unconscious and someone took me home.

Basically, my symptoms were the loss of appetite, uncontrollable spate of coughing, sometimes headache, not eating, not sleeping and I was very, very weak.

My house is near the Cornwall Regional Hospital, so one day I was home and when I was going into the bathroom I fell and they took me to the hospital. They did the COVID test and my relatives were there, but the result was taking forever to come. Two of my relatives began to express their disapproval of how I was being treated or the lack thereof, because I was in the passageway, not on a ward, and they are not making such a decision until the results are back, so I was forced to wait indefinitely.

I decided to seek help at a private practice, but on my way the hospital called and told me to come back, although I still had to wait a bit. After waiting for about five days, the results finally came and I was positive and admitted.

They gave me a bed, it was very uncomfortable and I was in the isolation ward, but I do not know if everyone on the ward were COVID patients. They suggested that you sleep on your stomach for 16 hours every day, and they would wake you up to take medication or take some blood.

They tested us often, they gave us oxygen. But the hospital is in need of a lot of things. Basically, the facilities there are not adequate, they don’t have proper equipment most of the time such as wheelchair, stretchers and some of the beds are not the greatest. They say hot water is there, but I never experience it … I was very cold.

The staff works very hard with what they have. It is a very tough job. The facilities are underdeveloped and not equipped. The shortages show in some basic medication that you have to buy for yourself.


Who knows if others did not get it? Not everybody gets tested even if they are sick.

My neighbour with her two daughters never got tested; my children’s mother never got tested so they cannot know if they are COVID free.

Mothers will believe that they have it but are afraid of what will happen to their children, so they don’t get tested.

Many people have COVID but not going to do the test, because there is a stigma. I get calls to do real estate transactions and when I go to the location, they put off the transaction. It impacted on our business because there is a certain amount of stigma.

When I was leaving the hospital there was this Chinese lady using the words of the prime minister, “Tan A Yuh Yaad”, and that is my word to all my Jamaican brothers and sisters – Tan A Yuh Yaad.


Cases of the coronavirus in western parishes as at Friday, January 15, 2021

St James 1,498

Westmoreland 754

Trelawny 407

Hanover 329