‘It’s like something stick mi inna mi heart’

Melissa Harris is still puzzled and stunned by the death of her mother late last month.

“It’s like seh something stick mi inna mi heart. Mi shocked! It shock me because she do the [COVID-19] test and it was negative. She did alright. So now when me hear news seh me mother sick and dem call me and seh dem a carry mi mother go hospital because she a vomit, mi shocked. Mi nuh know wah fi seh,” Harris told the Jamaica Observer.

Her mother, 54-year-old Lorna Lewis, was the inmate at South Camp Adult Correctional Centre who reportedly died from COVID-19.

Lewis, who was serving 17 years for grievous bodily harm, died before completing one year of her sentence.

On February 15, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) reported that there were 36 new cases at South Camp Adult Correctional Centre — 28 inmates and eight staff members.

The week prior, the DCS said there were five cases.

Harris said she received a call from the correctional centre on February 19 informing her that her mother had taken ill.

“Dem call me the Friday and seh Mummy sick. And dem seh dem a bring her go hospital,” she said, adding that her mother had no co-morbidities.

Four days later, the situation took a turn for the worse.

“Dem seh the doctor call dem and seh it nuh look good and we must pray. So me a seh if a so it serious, and dem seh it look like a COVID,” she related.

“After that, dem call back February 23 and seh the doctor seh she passed. Me nah look fi dis! Mi talk to mi mother good, good and she nuh tell me seh she feel dem way deh. March 4 would’ve been one year. She got 17 years and we never get the chance fi visit her because she go in last year March and then COVID come in, so we couldn’t visit. We just talk to her pon the phone alone,” Harris told the Observer.

On February 24, the DCS reported that a female inmate who was incarcerated at South Camp Adult Correctional Centre passed away the day before at Kingston Public Hospital after being admitted with COVID-19 symptoms on February 19.

“She never have no sicknesses that I know of. She did tell me seh she alright. And she said she do the test and it come back negative. That was a week before. Me nuh know wah guh wrong after that, because the next week Mummy just start feel sick and a seh har head a hurt har. Me neva tek it so serious. Me neva a think seh Mummy have COVID and a guh dead,” Harris lamented.

Lewis was a mother of five, and had seven grandchildren and a great grandchild. Her three-year-old grandson last saw her when he was two years old before she was imprisoned.

According to his aunt, the boy hasn’t fully come to terms with his grandmother’s death, as he calls for her to come home every time he sees her photo on a memorial button.

“When mi show him her button, him a seh ‘Mama come, Mama come!’ Him know har and him know she a him granny, so him a call her. When him say it, sometimes me feel like me waan cry,” Harris said.

She remembered her mother as a helpful and fun-loving person.

“She always care about her kids dem. She talk a lot about her grandson. She have two recent grandchildren weh born three months now, so dem nuh know har. She’s a very jovial person and fun. She is nice and helpful… she always a help people. If she come and see you a do anything, she take it over. She get along good with people. People always like her anywhere where she go.”

The DCS has reported that since the start of the pandemic, 100 inmates and 88 members of staff have tested positive. In addition to Lewis, two members of staff have died from the virus.

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