“I can’t believe he is gone.”
Those grim words capture the shock death of Moreen Dwyer’s* 12-year-old son, one of the youngest casualties of the coronavirus’ fatal clutches in Jamaica.
The boy’s death is an outlier against the backdrop of mortality that has felled mostly middle-age to elderly persons, especially those with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.
Dwyer had taken her son to Mandeville Regional Hospital on what was expected to be a routine visit responding to nausea and discomfort.
But following admission and a series of tests, Dwyer said the doctor revealed that her son had an enlarged heart.
A series of other tests was scheduled.
But in September, while at the hospital with her partner and as doctors assessed possible methods of treatment, her son died in her arms.
That death was made public by the health ministry on September 9.
The mother is perplexed because the family had been previously unaware of his heart condition.
“I was so confused because our son didn’t have a heart problem before. He didn’t have COVID before going to hospital. None of us here have it, and we were with him right throughout the time,” she told The Gleaner.
The 12-year-old is one of 120 persons who have died from COVID-19 in Jamaica, according to data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness. Overall coronavirus cases have mounted to 6,895 as at Saturday, October 3.
Dwyer has used a pseudonym because stigma and discrimination have haunted coronavirus patients, drawing violence and threats. Relatives of infected or deceased persons also suffer discrimination.
The Dwyers and their three other children are now making preparations to say their final goodbye at a funeral.
Though her voice cracked many times during the interview, Dwyer still has unanswered questions, among them whether her son might have contracted the virus while receiving treatment at Mandeville Hospital.
“I really don’t know if my son contracted the virus at the hospital, but all I know is that my son will never be able to realise his dreams. He will never be able to do the things he always wanted to do … ,” she told The Gleaner.
Dwyer still reminisces fondly about her son, who was due to sit the Primary Exit Profile, the placement test for high school, in early 2021.
“He used to sing on the church choir and he was a firm believer in God. Giving his life to God in baptism was top of his list, but he never got that done. But I believe God knows his heart … .”
Like many typical boys, Dwyer’s son, who wanted to become a soldier, cherished donning camouflage pants on career day. But there were other habits, Dwyer said, that made her son stand apart from the average 12-year-old.
“I didn’t have to tell him to do a lot of things. If I did laundry and put the clothes on the line, I don’t have to ask him to take them up if it looks like it is going to rain.
“When we go to the supermarket and I ask him if he wants anything extra or special, he would always say, ‘It’s fine, Mommy, just get stuff for the house. I know we don’t really have it … ,” she said.
The child’s father said that the boy was a quiet child who easily won favour in the hearts of those with whom he came in contact.
“His teachers can tell you, too – he was a well-behaved child. Same way he was at home is the same way he was outside,” he said.
* Name changed to maintain confidentiality