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SISTER'S ILLNESS SERIOUS

By SEAN DOUGLAS Saturday, December 28 2013

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A CLEARLY-DISTRESSED Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was last night due to fly to New York City in the United States to visit her ailing older sister, Sally Ahmad, telling Newsday her sibling’s situation was serious.

The news came in a statement yesterday at 2.58 pm from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) which said Persad-Bissessar was leaving on a private visit, while Labour Minister Errol Mc Leod would act as Prime Minister during her absence the length of which period notably was not stated in the media release.

The statement’s sombre tone was reflected in the voice of the Prime Minister herself, who seemed too distraught to engage Newsday in another conversation about relief to the storm-hit Caribbean islands of St Lucia and St Vincent.

“Mrs Persad-Bissessar is making this visit to be at the bedside of her eldest sister Sally, who has encountered a serious medical situation and is in hospital requiring surgery,” said the statement. “The Honourable Prime Minister is taking the time off on compassionate grounds to be close to her family at a time of great need.”

When briefly contacted on her cell phone, Newsday asked the Prime Minister if the fact she was leaving TT meant her sister’s health threat is serious? “Yeh”, she replied. “I’d prefer to stay home, but I must go. She’s my big sister.”

Newsday called a telephone number at 14 Pine Brook Road, New Rochelle, New York City, registered to one “Sally Ahmad”, and asked to speak to a family member and inquired of Sally. Someone sounding remarkably like Persad-Bissessar’s younger sister, Vidwattie Newton, replied that the family was not talking, and said, “If you talk to the Press Secretary (Francis Joseph) I’m sure he’ll have all the information.” But neither Joseph, nor communications officer Lisa Ghany, was answering their phones.

Tourism Minister, Chandresh Sharma, told Newsday that Persad-Bissessar had lost a brother many years ago in a car accident, and she has since been the anchor of her family even as one sister, Vidwattie, lived in the United Kingdom, while Sally had spent over 30 years in the United States.

In her time as Prime Minister, Persad-Bissessar has cut a sympathetic figure as she and her loved ones encountered several health challenges.

On August 16, 2011, she was struck by dengue fever that left her having to work from home. Her grandson, Kristiano, then five-years-old, on September 25, 2011 was hospitalised at San Fernando General Hospital for suspected dengue fever, and discharged on September 27, 2011.

The very next day, September 28, 2011, Persad-Bissessar complained of feeling unwell at a function at the Hyatt Hotel, Port-of-Spain, and was hospitalised at St Clair Medical Centre suffering from swollen ankles. She blamed her unwellness on age.

On June 22, 2011, the PM’s husband, Dr Gregory Bissessar, then 61, underwent a a successful triple bypass heart operation, at St Clair Medical Centre done by Italian surgeon, Prof Giovanni Theodori.

On May 20, 2012 while at a Caricom meeting, Persad-Bissessar was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados. Although she flew back to TT with a heart specialist, she denied any heart problems, blaming her illness on her constant battle with diabetes and hypertension, and her failure to properly take her medication due to her busy routine at the Caricom meeting. As of 7.45 pm last night, Mc Leod, said he was still waiting to learn the time of Persad- Bissessar’s flight.

Newsday sources said Persad-Bissessar was being accompanied by a Special Branch security detail and was due to depart Piarco International Airport shortly after midnight.

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