( Dr. Jean Turnquest is the youngest sister of the former Governor General Sir Orville Turnquest. She is a psychologist by profession. She is a resident of Grand Bahama. She wrote this open letter to the press telling of her experience of contracting Covid 19 and the treatment she received.)
My name is Dr. Jean Turnquest. I am 75 years old and a retired Psychiatrist who has lived and worked in Freeport since 1982. I live alone and I am very involved in my Grand Bahama community. I have two daughters Kimberley and Vanessa who live in Nassau.
In 2011, I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and I am under active management by my Oncologist. However, my white cells are in the 330,000 range (Normal 4-10,000) so I know that I have a serious comorbidity.
At the beginning of the COVID pandemic my daughters told me “Mummy you need to come to Nassau and be with us in case you get sick.” I agreed and came to my big sister, Bobbie who lives with her daughter Diane and her grandson, Dylan. I have stayed there several times before and sometimes for extended periods. Diane always opens her home to me, and I am always very comfortable.
Additionally, since Hurricane Dorian, Grand Bahama Health Services continue to be compromised, and since the start of the pandemic with lockdowns and travel restrictions, movement from Grand Bahama to Nassau quickly would not always be possible. So, it made sense for me to be in Nassau.
On Monday, August 31st, 2020 Dylan & Marcia (housekeeper) went to license their cars and there was no social distancing. During the next 2-3 days all members of the house started coughing, including me.
On Friday, September 4th we all took a COVID-19 test, and everyone tested positive. I told my Priest and all family and friends about my positive result and asked for their prayers. I knew that this was going to be a battle.
We were being monitored by our doctors and each day we measured our temperature, pulse, blood pressure and oxygen saturation several times and forwarded the results. We were all stable, eating and sleeping well, caring for ourselves, each other, and the home.
On Saturday, September 5th my chest was bubbly, and I started taking Azithromycin for several days. I also contacted my grand-niece, Holly a physiotherapist and asked for some exercises hoping to maximize my fitness and offset any lung involvement.
On Friday, September 11th, I was encouraged and prayerfully I hoped that I was over the hump as it was now almost 14 days post infection. Then I started to decline. Saturday was my worst day ever…fuzzy thinking, no appetite, poor energy, cold spells, patches of my skin felt hot, and I was very sleepy.
Then on Sunday, September 13th I started sleeping a lot, had no appetite and stopped eating. I have no memory of the next few days. On Thursday morning, September 17th Diane came to check on me and found me in the bathtub (I thought I was in bed) partially dressed. I went in bed then had a bout of diarrhea.
Dr. Ilsa advised that I go downstairs and have Dylan watch me. In my confusion as I tried to connect my memories, I told Dylan “I think I hit my head on the bathtub.” Dylan informed his Mum and the team, and they saved my life.
I was taken to Doctors Hospital by my children, had a CT Scan, other tests and was admitted. Later I was told that I was near death on admission. I know that I was very, very, sick. As there was no space in Doctors West, I was fortunate to have a spot in Doctors Hospital. I was not in a traditional patient room; however, the area was managed by the medical team from the fourth floor which was away from my haven and our systems were monitored by a Nurses’ Station, nearby.
I had a roommate who was in better condition than me and she knew the routine. She had a cell phone and would call the medical team when needed. The first few nights I did not have my cell phone to call for assistance. The first night I woke up and needed to use the bathroom but could not reach that area with all of my tubes. So, I took them all off. Afterwards I opened the doors and tried to figure out where I was and get help. Eventually I got out to an area where there was staff and I was told by a Nurse “Miss you can’t be here, you have to go back in “the” room”. He took me back to my room and connected me to all of my tubes.
The second night I woke up with a pain in my groin and realized that I was bleeding from my arm because I had lost a catheter. I could not stop the blood. I knew that our machines were being monitored so I disconnected all my tubes again, hitched the bleeding arm up high, held on tightly and passed out. When I woke up the next morning I was reconnected and had been taken care of.
There was a huge light in this room right over my bed that could not be turned off. At this time, I had poor memory, confusion, no smell, no taste, and dry eyes. The room was noisy when the other doctor came and talked to his patients’ daughter on speakerphone. I complained loudly that it was too much noise and too much light.
My COVID mind had two distinct components. Confusion with an associated sense of helplessness and another state of combined grandiosity, irrationality with hyper focus. In the latter mental state, I became fixated on this huge light and thought about it all the time. I was certain that I could put it out by climbing up and stabbing it with a knife or hitting it with a chair. Finally, I decided that this would not be wise as I might electrocute myself or blow the whole electrical grid.
On Sunday, September 20th, 2020, I felt helpless and unable to fight to survive. I was tired and beat. I told my family and friends that I wanted to go to Jesus and started to say my goodbyes. I got into the tunnel and at the Eastern gate waiting, was my Mother, Father, Calvin, Beverly, Gurth, Chris and Beverly Ann; Also, Lady Edith, Lia, my brothers Roderick, Arthur and my nephew Michael.
However, there were some nuances that were different. The light in the tunnel was not as bright and my family were not animated but quiet and waiting. Only Calvin and Lia smiled. I realized that they had no power, no vote. At the same time, I also understood that I had some unfinished business to complete first. So, I went back and phoned my children and told them what funeral arrangements I wanted and to “dress me up”. I also told them that I wanted to go to Jesus. Then I went back to the gate, my family was there but again I could not get in. I realized that my children were holding me back. I returned and talked to Vanessa and she said “Mummy we are not letting you go. You cannot go to Jesus now.”
The decision had been made. I asked my family for the armour of God (Ephesians 6:11-18) and decided to fight with them in the battle for my life.
Every day afterwards I got better.
Later I learnt that Kimberley and Vanessa had mounted a campaign of love, support, and prayer for me with family and friends. Also, they were working hard with friends and family members to get me admitted into a U.S. hospital so I could receive a special medication. They had been liaising with U.S. Hospitals Admission Staff, had obtained an acceptance for admission and had an air ambulance with the special COVID pod ready for my transfer. Then I turned the corner and did not need to go.
My daughters are my heroes.
I truly believe that Doctors Hospital is a healing hospital. My Doctors were amazing, and the nurses were incredible. After I started to improve, I got to know them and remember their names and we had lots of jokes. What a health team! My Staff Nurses were amazing, and they were assisted by a special group of professionals, my Patient Care Technicians who were also incredible. They were always professional, competent, appropriate and had a great sense of humour. As I improved, I almost did not want to leave as the Nursing Staff took such good care of me and helped to save my life.
I was discharged from hospital on Monday, September 28th, 2020.
I am truly thankful for the care from my medical team: Dr. Nikkiah Forbes, Dr. Ilsa Grant-Taylor, Dr. Duane Sands, Dr. Paul Ramphal, Dr. Nelson Clarke, Dr. Devaughn Curling, and the support from all my family and friends.
AFTER EFFECTS OF COVID
I still have poor concentration, memory and word recall, little smell, little appetite, limited taste, and impaired hearing. Thankfully, there is regular improvement.
Today, after being off oxygen continuously for 2 days, my oxygen saturation has remained elevated. Almost a month after my admission to hospital, Dr. Forbes discharged me from her care and declared me officially recovered from COVID-19.
WHAT DID I LEARN AS A RESULT OF THIS EXPERIENCE?
1. Do not put off for tomorrow what you can do today.
2. Develop and complete all of your plans for emergencies, especially your financial arrangements.
3. Always strive to make a positive difference in our world. Help who you can, with what you can, whenever you can.
4. Care for your physical, emotional, and mental health at all times.
5. When your battle is bigger than you and you are not able to fight, allow others who care about you to help you.
6. Early in my illness I was very open and reached out to all of my family and friends. I learned and proved that loved ones will help once they know that their help is needed, and it allows for access to an even larger networks of support.
7. God is always in charge and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Dr. Jean M. Turnquest
October 14, 2020