Her voice broke a little as she spoke. Seconds later, Point Fortin grandmother Sumintra Bajan was sobbing at the idea of turning 65 years old this month and not having her full family around to celebrate.
Along with her husband Albert Rampersad, she is stranded in the United States (US) for five months.
While there is emotional turmoil in Bajan’s mind, it is even worse for her husband Albert Rampersad, who developed prostate problems and needs urological intervention.
“We need to return home now. My husband needs to see a urologist,” Bajan told Guardian Media from Houston, Texas.
To access proper and affordable healthcare in the USA, one needs health insurance. In the absence of that, Bajan said their medical bills at Herman Memorial Medical Centre is piling, and they have not settled one debt to date.
“It is like living in hell. In the day, we pray for night to come, and when night comes, you cannot sleep. You are just hoping to hear something over the phone about getting to return home. The information we are getting, it always seems false. They have us living in hope, and it is killing us.”
Bajan and Rampersad left Trinidad on February 14 to help their daughter and grandchild settle in their new life in Houston. They were supposed to depart on May 30 to return home, but with the borders closed, there was nothing they could do.
On March 21, National Security Minister Stuart Young announced that the government would lock down the borders on March 24.
But with just over two months of their stay remaining, Bajan was not worried. Even as May approached, the couple was unfazed as the T&T COVID-19 effort seemed successful.
“We thought it would have been shorter than this extensive period that we are having now. We knew about the closure of the borders, but we always thought things would work out because we heard how the rates were low. We thought they had it under control, so we did not worry about it.
“When May 30 reached, flights were leaving the US, and our borders were closed, so there was no way of getting back home. We applied for exemptions on June 13 and again in July, but we never got any reply. We got nothing at all. My daughter called the Ministry but got nothing from them. Up to today, we do not know what is going on.”
Both are diabetic and hypertensive, and on May 29, Rampersad fell ill and had to go to the medical centre. Doctors attended to him and gave him medication, but the bills are expensive. His pain subsided until August 31, when he again had to seek medical care.
“Up to this morning, we took him to the hospital again. They told him to go home and drink plenty of liquids, but he is not passing urine properly. He needs to return home to see a urologist.”
Even Bajan had to visit the doctor for her condition in July. While her daughter works, Bajan said she has a lot of bills and a child.
On July 30, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said 50 per cent of the citizens who got exemptions returned home already. On August 29, Rowley announced that he would meet with the Ministry of National Security to work out plans to increase the rate of repatriation of citizens. He said notwithstanding the seriousness of the pandemic, it was only reasonable that citizens are allowed home.
While Bajan heard of Rowley’s statements, she is losing hope.
“On September 21, I will be 65 years, and I wish to be in Trinidad to spend my birthday with my children,” Bajan said.