Abaco mother stuck in Florida anxious to return home

Almost nine months ago, 27-year-old Erin Sands left a ruined Abaco pregnant, caring for a young son and seeking refuge from the devastation of Hurricane Dorian.

Now, after giving birth in the United States and with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has no idea when she can return home.

“I came over a week after Hurricane Dorian because I was 11 weeks pregnant and had a small child [who was] almost two years old at the time and it was not good for us to stay,” Sands said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.

“No electricity, debris everywhere, etc. I needed to see a doctor routinely for my pregnancy. We came to West Palm Beach, Florida, because we are familiar with the area and I already had a doctor established here from my previous pregnancy.

“We had planned to wait to return home after the baby was born at the end of March or when it seemed fit after that. Although there is still no electricity, Abaco is slowly improving and we are almost ready to get home.

“Besides the fact that the borders are closed, we have to wait for the baby’s passport, which the U.S. agency says could take many months due to COVID-19.

“I also have two cats and a dog that I brought from Abaco after the storm that need to return home with me.”

Between the monster Category 5 storm in September and the state of emergency over COVID-19 in March, Sands said she could have never expected such a dramatic change in her life when she got pregnant last July.

“We had to rent a condo and sign a year lease [and] we have to pay rent and utilities,” she said.

“Luckily, my husband was able to go back and forth to work up until the baby was born and lockdown happened. So, we are managing, but it’s not ideal.”

But on top of her own struggles, Sands also has family members who came to help with the new baby but found themselves stranded when the country’s borders were suddenly closed on March 27.

“My mother-in-law and own mother came over for the birth and were only supposed to stay two weeks but have been here almost nine and need to return home to work,” she said.

“My mother-in-law also needs to take her 80-year-old mother-in-law and her caregiver home before their visa is up.

“She is still trying to go directly via charter from Florida to Abaco because the changing planes, etc., will be difficult for her mother-in-law.”

Although flights to New Providence and Grand Bahama for Bahamian citizens and residents have recently resumed, Sands said she finds it “ridiculous” that Family Islanders would not be able to return directly to their respective islands.

“I, myself, would prefer to quarantine in my own home, which I and everyone else have no problem with,” she said.

“My mother-in-law is hesitant because my grandmother-in-law is 80 and fragile. But no one in the group has an issue with quarantining for the 14-day period.”

She added, “We understand that they are trying to protect The Bahamas, but [we] also want to get home.

“It’s also ridiculous that they aren’t letting people go straight to the Family Islands and only to Nassau or Grand Bahama.”

Two Bahamasair flights have been arranged this week to fly into New Providence.

Central and South Abaco MP James Albury has said more than 300 Abaconians are seeking to return home from other parts of The Bahamas and from the United States.

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