HOW could a 20-year-old man with no comorbidities and no symptoms of Covid-19 die from the virus?
This was the question posed to Dr Michelle Trotman at the Covid-19 media conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, yesterday, following the death of Abdullah Mohammed Hassim, who showed no signs of illness until minutes before he died.
Hassim, a President’s Medal awardee who was studying to be a mechanical engineer, was the only son of Nabilah Juman, 40, and his stepfather Intaff Juman, 56.
He collapsed and died before their eyes at their Cunupia home on June 5.
A test during his autopsy at the mortuary of the the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope found he was Covid-19 positive.
It shocked his family members who said he had displayed no symptoms of the virus.
The suddenness of his death led them to believe he had suffered a heart attack, but the autopsy found he had died of complications related to Covid-19, health officials told his relatives.
Dr Trotman was asked by the Sunday Express what could cause Covid to act or react so quickly in such a young man?
She responded: “Always, when someone dies it is very sad. When a young person dies, it is even more so. Unfortunately, this gentleman died, and at post-mortem was diagnosed with Covid-19. He was not a case that was being followed along. Without disclosing particulars of that case, in general, people die suddenly from many things. And in this pandemic, sometimes Covid could be incidental and not necessarily primary.”
She said: “Whether or not this gentleman died primarily from complications of Covid or not is not something that we would be able to answer. In general, people with Covid-19 can die suddenly.
“Again, I want to implore that we all follow the public health measures and we all respond to the call for vaccination to avoid that possible consequence. But people can suddenly have blood clots–pulmonary embolism, among a series of other complications that could come with Covid-19.”
Dr Trotman said she was not aware if Hassim had been tested for a variant of the Covid-19 virus.
Normal until 15 minutes before he died
Hassim’s grieving stepfather, Juman, told the Sunday Express in an interview yesterday that two days before he died, Hassim was in the back yard eating mangoes with him and had organised documentation to apply to the University of Trinidad and Tobago to pursue its mechanical engineering programme.
In January 2020, Hassim was the recipient of a President’s silver medal for his humanitarian work in the Scout Association of Trinidad and Tobago.
“Abdullah never complained of a body pain, fever, nothing. Just about 15 minutes before he died, he said he had an upset stomach. Everything before that was very normal with him,” said Juman.
The positive Covid-19 test meant that his mother, stepfather and 65-year-old grandmother who reside with him were immediately placed in self-quarantine at their home in David Toby Trace as they waited to be tested for the Covid-19 virus, and they were unable to attend his funeral and witness his final rites.
Juman told the Sunday Express: “It was only a week ago that he passed on about 7 a.m. in our bed. Abdullah was my wife’s only child and she has been grieving. To me, was he was my son, and he called me ‘daddy’ from day one.
“His funeral on Tuesday was the worst day of my life because we were not able to attend and look at him and say our last goodbyes. A relative called us on the phone and told us what was happening. We raised our hands in the air when it was time for the last prayers by the imam. My wife was inconsolable.
“He had to be buried in a cemetery in Sangre Grande, and I had to ask a relative to see the spot so that when we come out of this, we can go and say our prayers and goodbyes.”
Hassim attended El Socorro Islamia TIA Primary School and then ASJA Boys’ College in Charlieville.
Juman, who was retrenched from his job as a salesman, said his wife works part-time, and they were happy to support Hassim to realise his dream as a mechanical engineer.
On Friday, he worked a few hours at his part-time job at a printery and returned home around 5 p.m.
The young man took a shower and went to his room and chatted with friends online, after which he went to bed, Juman said.
The next morning, Hassim awoke before sunrise and asked his grandmother several times for water to drink and complained of an upset stomach.
“I asked him how long he felt like this and he said he just started to feel sick. He came into our room and he chatted for a few minutes. He put his head on his mother’s chest and we were talking. He told his mother he was going back to take a rest.
“A short while after, I heard him breathing very heavy, then gasping for breath. In 15 minutes, he was unresponsive and sweating as if he just took a shower and did not dry his skin. He took about three or four big gasps and that was it.
“We called out to him, tried to revive him, but nothing. My wife was bawling, inconsolable. The paramedics came and tried, too, but they showed me the flatline,” said Juman.
Added to the trauma, Juman said the Ministry of Health did not contact them initially to have Covid-19 tests administered to him, his wife and his mother-in-law as they were primary contacts of Hassim.
He said he persistently called the hotlines and the County Medical Officer of Health office throughout the week and raised his concerns about his household.
“Only on Friday, we were called to do the Covid tests. Days before that, if someone did answer the phone, they would transfer the call multiple times and each time I had to explain our situation from scratch.
“Over the week, we took in front and started to drink bush tea and keep hydrated to safeguard ourselves. When they finally called for us to do the tests, they told me to come to the health centre to do have them done. Imagine, nobody came to our house although we could be Covid-19-positive, but they asked us to come to them?
“This just added to our anxiety and trauma with the whole situation while we were grieving for Abdullah. This is the kind of stupidness that is going on in this country,” he said.
Juman said his wife slept the last few nights holding a framed photograph of their son to her chest.