WHEN 84-year-old Solomon McFarlane developed pneumonia after testing positive for the deadly COVID-19 his family was preparing for the worst.

The Clarendon man, who now lives in Manchester, England with family, had begun showing flu-like symptoms just over a week after returning from vacation on the island with his spouse on March 13.

It is not clear, however, within which period he contracted the infectious disease, which is caused by the novel coronavirus.

“It was just over a week, about eight or nine days when he came back from Jamaica and we just thought, because my grandma was sick as well, that they had the after-flight flu, you know? You normally come back from holiday; you get a bit sick but my granddad just wasn’t getting any better,” McFarlane’s granddaughter, Rokaia, who spoke on behalf of the family, told the Jamaica Observer in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Unlike his wife who, while her temperature was higher than his, had not displayed further symptoms, McFarlane had developed a severe fever, had difficulty breathing and had a persistent cough — symptoms linked to COVID-19.

Concerned that the family patriarch had contracted the disease that has infected more than 60,000 people and killed more than 7,000 in the United Kingdom, Rokaia said the family called for an ambulance.

“They said it was a suspected case of COVID, it wasn’t diagnosed until he got admitted into hospital on March 23rd and then after two days it was confirmed that it was the coronavirus,” Rokaia shared, noting that he was admitted to Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Her grandmother, who was not tested for the disease, was advised to self-isolate, while her grandfather remained at hospital for two weeks as doctors worked feverishly, she said, to get him on the road to recovery.

But his condition worsened, much to the dismay of his family.

“He was just getting from bad to worse and then they said he had pneumonia (developed in week 1). Then they said he’s critical, and then they said the next 24 hours are going to be critical because he was really deteriorating. It just all put us down in prayer even more, to be honest, after we heard that,” she recounted.

The family knew that McFarlane was particularly vulnerable, with elderly people being most at risk to succumb to the disease.

Experts have said that adults 60 and older are more likely to have severe — even deadly — coronavirus infection than other age groups.

Similarly, the World Health Organization has said that some people may develop more severe forms of the disease, such as pneumonia.

But in a pleasant turn of events, described by Rokaia as “the grace of God”, the 84-year-old began responding positively to treatment.

Rokaia said the family was eventually able to speak to McFarlane by telephone and spent those precious moments supporting the elderly man, who only weeks before had been enjoying himself in St James and Spanish Town.

“We had to encourage him because we were able to speak to him on the phone once he started breathing better. We just all had to keep encouraging him, you know, to fight it. ‘You need to fight this’. And then he started to pick up,” Rokaia said, adding “It’s by the grace of God. We’re just really happy that he has recovered.”

McFarlane, who was released from hospital on April 6, has been required to self-isolate for an additional seven days and so was unable to participate in the interview, but has indicated that he is “feeling fine”.

“With my grandfather, his leg could be dropping off and he’ll say he’s fine. That’s the thing with him. He has been saying he’s feeling fine,” Rokaia said.

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