The family of a Bimini woman suspected to have died from COVID-19 believes her life could have been saved had she gotten off the island sooner and into New Providence where she could have gotten better care.
“She was not getting enough oxygen to the lungs and we don’t have a ventilator on the island and we could not get anyone to take her [into Nassau],” said Lloyd “Duda” Edgecombe, a prominent member of Bimini’s local government council and the brother-in-law of Kim Johnson-Rolle, 57.
Johnson-Rolle was the sister of Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson. Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday, “We are treating her as a suspect case (of COVID-19).”
Johnson-Rolle accompanied her daughter and grandchildren to Florida within the last two weeks for an appointment the children had with the doctor, according to Edgecombe.
When she returned, it was not long before she started having flu-like symptoms.
According to her brother-in-law, Johnson-Rolle was asthmatic.
“On Saturday, she called her sister, who is my wife,” he said. “She was having difficulty breathing.”
She was not taken to the clinic until Sunday afternoon, according to Edgecombe, who said this was because of existing protocols relating to COVID-19.
He said protocols also prevented an aircraft the family had arranged from coming to Bimini to collect his sister-in-law and transport her to New Providence.
“It took over 24 hours and we personally believe that if she had gone the day before, we believe there is a possibility that she could have been alive,” Edgecombe said.
He said a Royal Bahamas Defence Force plane eventually picked his sister-in-law up around 3 p.m. on Monday. Around 6 p.m., her family was told she was dead.
“The nurse and doctor were on the plane with her,” Edgecombe said. “We were told her heart stopped beating and they were unable to revive her.”
He said Johnson-Rolle, who owned a popular restaurant in Bimini, walked from the clinic into the ambulance and walked from the ambulance onto the plane.
“We figured after she got off the island she was good,” he said. “My wife even had a conversation with her; that knocked the hell out of us when we got the call.”
Edgecombe added, “Had we gotten her off Bimini sooner she would have been alive. The doctor said she was real sick and she was not breathing properly so the night before, because of her breathing, it worked on her heart. If she had gotten on the ventilator, I think it would have been a big relief. She wasn’t having any fever but she was having difficulty breathing.”
Sands told The Nassau Guardian, “The patient had symptoms consistent with and travel history that could mean that she was COVID positive.
“So, that was a very significant part of the clinical impression and she had to be managed as such even though she had not been tested.”
He said health officials will test her.
“I don’t know when they will run that test, but I don’t expect that it will be more than 24 or 48 hours,” the minister said.
Edgecombe said the family wants to see things changed so there is not a repeat of this tragic event.
“The Ministry of Health should be responsible for getting people off the island,” he said. “It can’t take 24 hours, especially if someone has difficulty breathing.”
He added: “It could happen to me, it could happen to anyone. I have my family here and what I would like to see is that if someone has a problem breathing, you should have help. You have to breathe in order to live. We would like for them to change the protocol, especially in getting people off the island.”
Edgecombe also told The Nassau Guardian the family is self-quarantining.
“All of us are quarantined twice a day,” he said. “We have to take our temperature and call into the clinic.”
The ordeal has left many on Bimini in shock.
Bryanna Roberts, 24, lived across the street from Johnson-Rolle her entire life.
She said Johnson-Rolle was “like an aunt to me”.
Roberts said she believes Bimini does not have adequate healthcare facilities to handle a COVID-19 outbreak.
“I feel if we did have it, this could’ve been prevented,” Roberts said.
“She could’ve been helped from here instead of waiting to go way to Nassau. I feel they prolonged this for too long.
“We, here in Bimini, we been asking for equipment for the clinic for years and I feel like Bimini’s the island to always be left in the dark.”
In a Facebook post, Lloydra Cash-Bowleg, one of Johnson-Rolle’s daughters, wrote, “This right here hit a bit different. I have lost loved ones before but you are my mummy and one of my closest friends.”
Cash-Bowleg said her heart is “shattered”.
In a statement, West Grand Bahama and Bimini MP Pakeisia Parker-Edgecombe said she was “saddened by the turn of events”.
“Truly the entire island of Bimini is in mourning,” Parker-Edgecombe said.
“Mrs. Rolle was indeed a staple in that community; both she and her family have done much for its growth and development. She will be missed tremendously.”
Parker-Edgecombe defended the island’s clinic and the service delivered to Johnson-Rolle there.
“Her care while at the Bimini clinic was dealt with more than professionally with the team remaining with her nonstop,” she said.
“I am sensitive to the concerns of the family and community at large and I do understand the raw emotions following the entire ordeal. They all remain in my prayers at this time.”