Nurse Bernadette Rolle, who worked on the Male Ward at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre (SRC) and died on Friday from COVID-19, had prayed to stay alive, but feared she would not make it through.
The chilling struggle Rolle had with the illness, which is wreaking havoc on the Fox Hill facility, was evidenced through voice notes she sent out not long before her death.
“I’m just trying to make it through,” said the 44-year-old mother of two, who had been with Sandilands for more than 14 years.
In the voice notes that were shared on social media over the weekend, Rolle described her struggle with COVID-19 as a “roller coaster”.
“I don’t think I can make it through,” she said, her breathing shallow, her words barely audible.
“Sometimes, it is just be rough. It is rough. It feels like a roller coaster; sometimes it’s smooth. When you think it’s going to stay smooth, it just gets rocky.
“I just be praying to God to make it through and I [am] really hoping to be home with my kids. I know we’re separated, but I prefer to be there with them… The other day, I was vomiting so much Ethan asked me if I’m going to die.
“Lily answered him and said, ‘No, mummy gonna live. She shall live and she shall not die.’
“I said, ‘Yeah, Lily. I shall live and I shall not die.’
“That part right there was hard.”
Speaking of her deteriorating situation, Rolle said, “Oh my God, it’s just scary.
“It’s just scary. It’s the second morning in a row. It’s just scary.”
She said a nurse at the South Beach COVID-19 Centre where she was being treated, prayed with her and told her she was going to walk out alive.
“She said, ‘You’ve got to believe,’” Rolle recalled. “I said, ‘I believe.’”
“She said, ‘You have two small children. You have to fight.’”
Though she lost her fight, Rolle was remembered by many as being courageous in the face of death.
Others remembered her for the contributions she made in the country’s battle against COVID-19.
In a statement, Minister of Health Renward Wells described her as “a brave warrior from the front line in our fight against the pandemic” and said the nation is grateful for her service.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands noted no single death is any more tragic than the other.
But he added, “The death of Bernadette Rolle, RN, however, reminds us of the price that healthcare workers pay in the battle against COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
“Like our colleague, Judson Eneas, she has succumbed in this war. I was privileged to know her. She lived in the area I represent. I offer sincere condolences to her children and family.
“As we fight this virus, please practice universal precautions. Assume that everyone you meet could be infected. Even though they may show no symptoms, asymptomatic carriers are infectious. We do not know the extent or number of COVID-19 infections in The Bahamas. Confirmed COVID-19 cases are only a percentage of the total.”
COVID-19 has had a gruelling impact on Princess Margaret Hospital and Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre.
At last report, 23 patients at Sandilands had tested positive for COVID-19.
In a statement on Saturday, the Public Hospitals Authority said Rolle worked across various wards at SRC over the years.
SRC Administrator Mary Walker described the loss as a “blow to the Sandilands family”.
The statement said Walker convened an emergency meeting to advise staff of Rolle’s passing and to address concerns they may have.
Walker, also a nurse by profession, said the sacrifices being made by frontline workers to provide care cannot be overstated.
“It is my hope that more and more members of the public will see the need for the public to partner with those of us in healthcare to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” she said.
Rolle’s death, meanwhile, sparked anger in at least one quarter.
“She was exposed on the job and was left to care for herself like many of the nurses are doing today,” said Bahamas Nurses Union President Amancha Williams during a press conference in front of SRC on Saturday morning.
“We say to this government: enough is totally enough. As of today, if things ain’t right, you can be assured that every nurse in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas will be sitting underneath the tree effective today.
“Prime minister, we’re tired. Minister of health, we’re tired.”
Williams said Rolle was the first nurse to die from COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
On August 7, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said at least 30 healthcare workers tested positive for the virus.
Up to early August, more than 400 healthcare workers had been potentially exposed to COVID-19, according to officials.
The Bahamas has recorded a total of 29 COVID-19 deaths.