What It Was Like to Get a COVID-19 Test as Someone at High Risk

Sometimes I feel like going out in public during the pandemic is like entering a different world than I knew, (which is true), but at the same time familiar (which is also true). In light of everything going on with the pandemic, when I called urgent care on a weekend for a fever with GI symptoms, they set me up to take a precautionary COVID-19 test to make sure I wasn’t infected.

That brings me back to entering into a different world. I drove up to the office building, but this time there was a security guard with an N95 face mask, like the kind you can find you can find on Pandemic Pal, my go to website for personal protective equipment. Just as I pulled in, an ambulance pulled up along with a fire truck. A patient was unloaded from the ambulance on a stretcher, where a crowd of at least seven medical personal surrounded him. Each one looked like they had been caught running into surgery. They had on gowns, face masks, gloves, face shields, and I actually had to go back around and wait and come in again.

Now, once you have the orders for a COVID-19 test, the doctor’s office calls you and asks if you will be the driver or the passenger, and if you are the passenger, could you please sit in the backseat behind the driver. It was all very strict. If something changed, I was to call them and inform them so they could be prepared when I showed up for my appointment.

After the ambulance detour, I followed another security guard’s instructions to a pop-up tent in front of a mobile medical center. This was the COVID-19 test center. The nurse comes out, (this is where I feel like I’m in that post-apocalyptic world again), decked out just like everyone else in full personal protective equipment from head to toe. I know a lot of areas were struggling to procure enough PPE for their medical workers, but thankfully that wasn’t an issue in my town.

This is where things get really uncomfortable.  

The nurse tells me she’s going to swab my nose but that it’s going to go a bit further back than your run of the mill nose swab.   What she didn’t tell me is that she’s going to stick a swab up my nose INTO MY SINUSES.   You know, the sinuses that are connected to my brain. And oh, maybe I forgot to mention, they do it for TEN seconds.  

After that, I drove away and waited for my COVID-19 test results, which they said would be ready in 24-48 hours.   And that was it.   It took all of three minutes, aside from the detour in the beginning, but even that only added maybe four more minutes.   I was pretty certain I didn’t have coronavirus, but when there’s a pandemic going on, I’m all for testing anyone and everyone.  

The worst part of the whole thing was later that night when I literally felt air in my brain, like there was a hole in aforementioned sinuses and a light breeze was blowing in.   It almost felt like a burning sensation, but I’m never any good at describing what type of pain I’m experiencing. Is it throbbing? Pounding? Pulsating?   All I know is it hurts.  

The next day I woke up to an email from my doctor saying that I had new test results.   I logged in and realized that even though I was pretty sure my test was going to be negative, a positive result would plunge me down the rabbit hole into almost certain death.   My lungs are not the best, and I have multiple medical conditions like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and a congenital heart condition that make me extremely high risk.

The verdict was in.   My test was negative.  

My first thought was “I knew it” followed quickly by a shuddering deep breath.   The whole time I had thought my test would be negative, but I realized in that moment of just not knowing what this pandemic truly means.   It’s a life or death situation. Maybe for you it’s not life or death, but as someone who struggles to breathe in general sans COVID, I can assure you that for me it is.

I have friends who have lost an immediate family member during these troubled times — a heartbreaking and devastating loss normally, but this time compounded by not being able to be with your loved one while they are in the hospital or celebrate their life once they pass.   And because the disease is so easily transmitted, entire families can be infected at an exponential rate, possibly resulting in the death of more than one family member to this pandemic.  

I am lucky that my COVID-19 test was negative.   I feel fortunate that the intense, time consuming time I spend disinfecting every single thing that comes into my house vigorously, the chapped hands from too much hand sanitizer and washing or the endless days upon days of quarantine has kept me safe thus far.   As the pandemic continues and now we are seeing a second wave of cases, I fear for my safety still and have realized that persons considered high risk, medically compromised, elderly or with an underlying health condition won’t be able to return to any semblance of “normal” life until there is a proven vaccine.  

We are all facing a new normal as we return back to work and school. The scope of this pandemic has affected every single state, country and continent (except Antarctica) and we continue to have more positive COVID-19 test results each day.   More hospitalizations. More deaths.   It’s all coming.   For now though, I’m going to sit on my couch with my pups and browse Netflix, thankful that another day has come and gone and I, as well as my close friends and family, have been spared from the nastiness that is COVID-19 for another day.

About the author: Iris Jolie
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