“A horrible tragedy”.
Members of Parliament and the staff at the Office of the Parliament were in shock yesterday on hearing of the death of 34-year-old procedural clerk assistant Sheranne Samuel.
Samuel, who was described as a light at the Office of the Parliament and her mother’s shining star, took ill and went to the Emergency Department of the Port of Spain General Hospital around 7 p.m. last week Monday with a debilitating headache, nausea and dizziness.
But there was no working CT (computed tomography) scanner at the hospital. She was however tested for Covid-19 and was being monitored in the A&E area. Because of the Covid scenario her relatives were advised to leave the area and that they would contact them when the blood tests were completed.
They left Sheranne sitting on a chair in A&E, awaiting further attention. At 4 a.m., her relatives were told that sometime during her stay at A&E, she had a number of seizures and slipped into a coma. She was taken to ICU.
The staff advised relatives it was thought that she was suffering from an infection of the brain but it could not be confirmed until a CT scan was done. With the CT scanner at Mt Hope also not working and the nearest public health institution with a working CT scanner being Sangre Grande, around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, some 19 hours after her admission, arrangements were made for Samuel to be taken to St Clair Medical for a CT Scan. This was paid for privately.
She was returned to the Port of Spain General Hospital awaiting the results of the scan. Hospital authorities said based on the results of the scan Samuel had a massive blood clot (stroke) and that it was severe. It was in those circumstances that she was taken off life support on Sunday, there being no sign of brain activity.
Condolences have come from around the world and in the region, because she was quietly confident and well known in international parliamentary circles. She also travelled extensively for the Rotary Club of Port of Spain Central.
The tributes flowed yesterday, from Speaker of the House Bridgid Annisette-George, Clerk of the House Jacqui Sampson-Meiguel, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Ministers Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Clarence Rambharat, Stuart Young and Fitzgerald Hinds, Chief Whip David Lee, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Independent Senator Paul Richards and the Rotary Club of Central Port of Spain.
Independent Senator Richards, who worked with Samuel on several committees, said it was a tragic loss because she was such a bright and intelligent young woman, a quiet but diligent worker and polite and extremely helpful. “My heart goes out to her family and her colleagues,” he said.
He lamented the fact that the scanner at Port of Spain General was not working nor was the one at Mt Hope, with the closest working scanner at Sangre Grande which was too far.
“There was no scan in time to get a proper diagnosis of what was going on with her. How are you diagnosing patients without a CT Scan? It opens up so many questions about the level at which this institution (Port of Spain hospital) is operating....How many times this has happened before (to other patients)? Who else has not had a proper standard of health care because there is no access to a scan at Mt Hope and Port of Spain General, two major health institutions in the country. Something has to be wrong in that? ...When she went in, she had to wait on a chair,” he said.
He said the Government was talking about a parallel health care system for Covid-19 which means that it should not have interrupted the existing healthcare system. “They need to fix that because Sheranne should not have gone through what she went through. And it is tragic that her family has to bury this 34-year-old who had so much potential and who worked hard all of her life, especially in the government service. Very unfortunate,” he said, as he extended condolences to her family.
Deyalsingh: Covid has screwed up everything
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said yesterday doctors treat patients based on the symptoms being presented. Asked how would Samuel’s condition have been properly assessed without the CT scan, he said: “By the symptoms.. Doctors treat patients by symptoms while they await confirmatory testing. My father had a stroke. The doctors didn’t do a CT scan to determine that he had a stroke,” he said.
Deyalsingh said the scan was eventually provided for Samuel, adding that the scanner is now working. “The parts were delayed because of Covid. People have to understand that we are in a global pandemic. People don’t store parts for CT equipment in Trinidad and Tobago or in any country. And only two flights come in a week so we have to wait for a flight (to bring in the parts). Covid has screwed up everything, but we are behaving in Trinidad as if it is only Trinidad affected by Covid,” he said.
The Express reported on September 10 that the CT Scanner at the Port of Spain General Hospital was down and that patients had to be transported to other hospitals in different regional health institutions.
Dedication to service
House Speaker Annisette-George said the parliamentary family, both the administrative staff and Member of Parliament are deeply saddened by the death of Samuel. “She was one of those committed and dedicated persons,” she said.
She said in addition to being a Clerk at the Table, she worked with her personally because she was assistant secretary to the PAAC which she (the Speaker) chaired.
“Her dedication was to the people of T&T in terms of ensuring that the public administration improved in its service delivery to the people of T&T. And to have had that fervour and fever to see public administration and public delivery in health care, pension, state leases, housing ,the whole gamut improved for the benefit of people she did not know, is commendable. If we have ten per cent of our population exhibiting that kind of commitment and dedication to service, to being their brother’s keeper, this country would be much better off. We will miss her. She is irreplaceable,” Annisette-George said.
Sampson-Meiguel, who described Samuel’s death as a “horrible tragedy”, said she admired Samuel’s drive for continuous self-development. She said Samuel, a past pupil of South East Port of Spain, “came to us with an excellent first degree” and while at the office of the Parliament got accepted for a scholarship to the London School of Economics to do her Master’s degree”.
“Sheranne has represented T&T at international fora quietly and competently and left her mark,” Sampson-Meiguel said. She also attended McGill University and did a certificate in parliamentary studies co-sponsored by the CPA. “And after all of that, she did her LLB at the University of London External and got accepted to Hugh Wooding this year,” Sampson-Meiguel said. “And she did all of that, not seeking any financial help from the Government,” she added. “She could have served at the table of the House without anyone else being there and she was brilliant in financial scrutiny. She was a treasure in her humility,” she said.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she was deeply saddened. She said Samuel was a valued member of staff. “Sheranne played a significant role in the democratic and parliamentary processes,” she said, adding that through her polite efforts and friendly personality, she provided invaluable support to the work of MPs and the Parliament.
Minister Clarence Rambharat said, “It is difficult to comprehend the quick events and Sheranne loss...The news of her sudden illness shocked and concerned me deeply.” Noting that Samuel got news of her acceptance to Hugh Wooding Law School mere days before her death, he said “her quiet demeanour and professionalism were on display for all to see”.
Education Minister Gadsby-Dolly said yesterday Samuel was “such a pleasant, wonderful, helpful person. All of us as MPs are really saddened because she was like a ray of sunshine, always so proper and helpful. She was such a small person but with a big influence, especially in her area (St Barb’s) which I am hearing about today. Gone too soon, but a life well lived. Our condolences to her family and the Parliament family,” Gadsby-Dolly said.
David Lee said as a result of Samuel’s committed work, the work of various parliamentary oversight committees and debates was successfully undertaken. “Beyond her work she always offered a welcoming pleasant smile...We have truly lost an amazing soul,” he said.
The Rotary Club of Port of Spain Central said it was “heartbroken. Sheranne was a charter member who served as director, president ....Known for her quiet disposition, Sheranne was a friend, confidante and inspiration to many...May her light continue to shine in our hearts and may she rest in eternal peace”.