Laying his head on his mother’s chest as he sought the comfort and solace that only a mother can provide in times of distress, Abdullah Hassim breathed his last as he laid on his parents’ bed, nestled in their arms.He died soon after.
Initially believing their only child died as a result of a heart attack, however, it was not until four days later that the family was informed by health officials that he died due to complications related to the COVID-19 virus.
Hassim, 20, was the recipient of a silver President’s Medal by President Paula-Mae Weekes in January 2020 for his humanitarian work in the Scouts Association of T&T.
Crying as he spoke with Guardian Media Limited yesterday, Hassim’s stepfather Intaff Juman, 56, expressed anger and disappointment over the delay by officials to have himself and his wife Nabilah, 40, also tested and quarantined if need be, now that the cause of Hassim’s death was known.
Afraid they too could die at home, Juman said had he not been forceful in demanding they be tested also, they might simply have been forgotten.
As it is, the couple has been told they have to remain quarantined until the test results are received, as they were tested on Thursday.
He said they were instructed to go to the testing facility nearest to their David Toby Road, Cunupia home – which is in Montrose – to be swabbed.
Hassim died on June 5, hours after he returned from work.
Five days after Hassim’s death, Juman said he became infuriated, then worried and concerned because no one from the Ministry of Health had contacted them for tests to be done.
“My whole issue is if I did not call them (hospital), what would have been the outcome? The same way Abdullah suddenly took in and died, I could die the same way. And I will be counted as another COVID death…another statistic.”
While the couple remains isolated until they get their results, they are wondering how and where Hassan would have contracted the virus. It is still a mystery to his parents, who said he was not known for liming.
They said the dedicated labourer usually went straight to work and returned home – and had even restricted his relationship with his girlfriend to online to minimise interaction among the households.
Juman tearfully said, “I know God sent him as an angel and I sent him back as an angel. I just want him to know I love him and he will always live in my heart forever.”
Deeply saddened that neither he nor his wife could have attended Hassim’s funeral, which took place on June 9 at the Sangre Grande Cemetery, Juman said he had to rely on his sister-in-law to make the arrangements and be present at the graveside.
The only symptoms Hassim reported feeling were nausea and dehydration in the hours leading up to his passing.
Invited to sleep with his parents because he was ill, Juman said when Hassim began cold sweating and gasping for breath, he immediately contacted the Emergency Health Services (EHS) but his son died before the ambulance got to the house.
Although Hassim was not Juman’s biological son, he considered him his own.
“At the age of five he came into my life. He was a son any father could have asked for. We were not just family, we were his best friends. We were like three peas in a pod.”
Describing COVID-19 as a plague that has been taking loved ones from families, Juman pleaded with citizens to stay home to avoid spreading the virus.
Adorning the wall of the Jumans’ home are certificates, medals and trophies attesting to Hassim’s academic achievements and dedicated work in the T&T Cadet Force.
A promising and ambitious young man, Juman said Hassim often made him very proud.
“Last year, he finished his diploma in Mechanical Engineering at UTT and was supposed to start his degree in September. According to his teacher, he was top in his class.
“Hassim had his heart set on becoming a mechanical engineer.
He wanted to repair airplanes.”
Juman said Hassim had so much to live for but the virus took him from them—shattering their family.
Trying to be strong for his wife, Juman said Nabilah has been sleeping with a photo of Hassim on her chest.
He revealed, “Before Abdullah died, he placed his head on his mother’s chest as a form of comfort. There is nothing we can do to bring him back. All we have are memories.”
The hardest part of Hassim’s sudden death, Juman said, was not being able to bid him farewell.
“It tore us to pieces knowing that three family members had to bury our son in our absence. The morning the burial was taking place, we were in tears and inconsolable. It hurt us really bad. It was a very difficult time for us and even now we still have not come to terms with his death,” Juman said, wiping away tears.
“It is something I would not wish for any parent to ever, ever go through. And the worst thing yet is your only child.”