As she walked around her store—Secret Glow Skincare and Cosmetics in Town Centre Mall, Port-of-Spain, on Friday– it was still hard for Carlene Rivers to believe that she was able to even open for business again.
“Sometimes I working and I would still be like Carlene you’re alive, I would say that to myself sometimes,” she said.
Rivers believes she contracted COVID-19 at her business place in October 2021, one week before she was set to get vaccinated. She is now awaiting the three-month period for her first vaccination.
“I decided I won’t go to work for the rest of the week, thinking it was the common cold, I stayed home trying to take the vitamins, the necessary medication to recuperate,” she explained.
But her situation got worse and by the end of week one, the hypertensive Maraval woman had no choice but to go to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.
There, she fainted after waiting under a tent for hours. She was eventually checked and discharged.
“All I want you to do is go home and quarantine for 21 days, he never used the word COVID to me,” Rivers repeated what the doctor told her at hospital before sending her home.
In a matter of hours, Rivers was admitted back into the hospital.
“That night I was in excruciating pain, excruciating pain I keep calling for help,” she said.
The wife and mother of one was transferred to the COVID-19 ward at the St. James Medical Complex.
Her only communication with her loved ones came from her cellphone, but her messages reflected the way she felt.
Rivers sent a voice note to her brother, “Richard call Calisha (her daughter) and talk to her, I don’t know what’s going on I ready to give up, I ready to give up.”
There was a time when she did give up. In tears, Rivers recalled when her lungs stopped working and she felt like her spirit left her body.
“I heard a voice telling me just close your eyes and let go…and I now answer back the voice and said so easy it is to die,” she explained.
She said she was slumped on the bed aware of everything going on around her but unable to move.
“I remember this particular night I stopped breathing and a doctor was on the ward and he had to cuff me, cuff me in my back and he told me he had to do that to open back my lungs,” she added.
Doctors told her that her lungs were badly damaged and she developed blood clots but she said the pain was the worst effect.
“I remember it had a particular day I was in so much of pain that they had to restrain me because I actually jumped over the bed and started to run… I rather go and make three children now than have to go through that pain again. It was terrible,” Rivers revealed.
She said she decided to tell her story not to scare anyone but to let people know that COVID-19 is real.
“My experience was horrendous,” she said.
Rivers said she is not back to the woman she was pre-COVID-19 and still struggles every day.
“I would have like to just relax and try and really totally heal but when you have bills to pay and things to do you have to come and work to get the money to do it,” she said.
She said she sees things differently and appreciates life more.
“Don’t just be alive, live because you never know when is your last breath,” she said.
One she could have taken last year if it wasn’t for the prayers from her loved ones and the medical staff at the St. James Medical Complex.
“I getting the chance now to tell them thank you, thank you for giving me the courage and the inspiration to want to live because when you’re going through tough times you would want to give up,” she said.