It was touch and go for a while when school teacher Jimmy Shah realised that he was dying from stage four pancreatic cancer in 2019.
At 51, he wondered if he would be taken away from his teenage children so soon as the five-year Relative Survival Rate for pancreatic cancer is nine per cent.
But through God, family and his oncologist, Shah survived, but still fears death.
Shah is staying with relatives in Florida, USA where the Department of Health recorded over 6000 new COVID-19 cases between Monday and Tuesday. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation left Shah with a compromised immune system.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19. They may remain infectious for a longer period than others with COVID-19.
It recommended that immuno-compromised people avoid leaving home.
Along with relatives, Shah stays isolated in his brother’s home, awaiting his return to T&T where known active infections are currently at zero. He also misses his family and funds are running low.
Shah explained that he went to the US in April 2019 to surprise his brother for his birthday. His sister Bebe, a nurse in Orlando, picked him up at the airport and noticed that his eyes were yellowish.
“As I was not feeling too well, she took me to the emergency room. There my blood work showed my bilirubin concentration was high. I had jaundice.
“Upon further tests, they found a growth on my pancreas that was squeezing the bile duct and preventing it from being excreted, hence my jaundice.
“The growth in my pancreas was cancerous. I was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. This type of cancer has a 95 per cent to 97 per cent death outcome,” he said.
That news left his children in tears.
While seeking treatment, Shah said, a colleague’s mother, who also developed pancreatic cancer, died within three months.
However, he responded so well to the treatment, that even his oncologist became emotional by his recovery.
It was only in March that a final examination confirmed that Shah, a Mathematics and Information Technology teacher from Couva, was cancer-free.
He booked flights to Trinidad, hoping to reunite with his children, ages 17, 16 and 13, but those flights got cancelled as the government shut the borders to stem the influx of COVID-19 cases.
“I did two sets of tests which indicated that I was cancer-free. She (Doctor) referred to me as a miracle.
“Thanks to all my family and friends who contributed to my recovery, especially the prayers and positivity. I am waiting to go home to see my children who I have not seen in over a year.”
Following the Ministry of National Security’s advertisement of the procedures for applying for exemption, Shah emailed his request on June 4.
Two days later, the Ministry responded, acknowledging his application. As a citizen abroad for a medical reason, he thought the Ministry would prioritise his request for a travel exemption.
“I appealed to them with many emails to which I only got an acknowledgement that they received my email and they are working on it.
“It is clear to me that whoever is making the priority list is for returning businessmen and rich influential people on holiday or business. I am aware of such people who were flown home or scheduled to be flown home by your airline.”
He told Guardian Media, “While you may not be able to influence the Government’s decisions, I am appealing to you or anyone who can, to please get me home. To survive my cancer ordeal and to end up dead from this virus seems that it would be a tragedy.
“My life may not mean much to the Government, but I think my children would miss me if I die here.
“Please someone, anyone, help me to get home to my family,” Shah appealed.