It’s getting easier to access a swab test for COVID-19, but you still need a referral from a doctor, and a little courage. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

COLUMN: I sneezed, I coughed, so I got tested for COVID-19

Accessing a swab test is easy these days, but the actual test can more than a little daunting

First of all, I need to sincerely apologize to the health nurse who performed my COVID-19 test.

I don’t always act like the melting Wicked Witch of the West, growling and pawing at my own face. Then again, who knew that swabs were half-a-foot long and could reach around to scratch your brains.

For the rest of you, I’ll back up a bit. It all started last week, with a post-workday nap that turned into a deep sleep.

Then there was the dry cough, the runny and tender nose, the pain in my forehead. Ultimately, there was the fact that all of the above didn’t disappear with a good dose of allergy medications.

I called in sick, because clearly I had caught a cold. And in addition to the ultimate cure of hot soups and daytime television, I had to go for a COVID-19 test. If we’ve learned anything from COVID-19 it’s that distancing works. And even the slightest chance that I may have spread the novel coronavirus around the office in the preceding days sent a flu-like shiver up my spine.

The first part was the easiest. I called up my family doctor’s office and told them I was sick. The doctor called back the next day and agreed I needed a test. A family member picked up the requisition and I was on my way to the Chilliwack Public Health Unit.

READ MORE: VIDEO: New COVID-19 testing machine takes load off B.C.’s virologists and labs

I ran through the raindrops to the front door, only to be turned around to the side of the building I had sprinted past.

Around the corner, signs on the building and markings on the ground direct you where to stand and what to do. A nurse was waiting at the doorway, ready to screen me for my symptoms. With that out of the way, I was in the building, which has been temporarily turned into a make-shift COVID-19 testing ward. The first thing I noticed is that the windows are all sealed off with poly and tape.

A few wide rows of spaced apart chairs face away from the entrance, and a few testing areas have been curtained off along one wall.

Distancing is in place that is well above the suggested two metres, and it made me feel safe. It also reminded me that this is a serious threat to some people’s health. It underscored why I was standing there, requisition in hand, sniffles in my nostrils, and a fear of what’s about to happen. I would have preferred to be back at the office, writing. Prior to COVID-19, I wouldn’t even have blinked twice at going to work with a dripping nose. A bit of cold medication, some strong coffee and tissues and I would have been on my way.

But we know more now, don’t we? If anything, staying home when sick should be adopted as the new normal.

I’m sent to a curtained off area, and we run through the list of questions. As my ‘yes’ answers pile up faster than the ‘no’ answers, the hypochondriac within me feels like maybe I do have the virus.

When it was time to tilt the head back, and let the nurse do her thing, I felt immensely brave. But as brave as I am in my heart, my body always has other plans. I felt my eyes widen as the swab entered my nose and quickly jammed up. My eyes teared. I gagged. I grabbed my chin, for some unknown reason, coughed and snorted and began to make those aforementioned witchy noises.

With no luck on the right, she moved to the left. I felt the swab glide up easily and for a slice of a second, I thought this would be easier. Of course, I was wrong and I was once again writhing in the chair.

So the bad news is, I’m utterly ridiculous. The good news is, it was over very quickly and shouldn’t be avoided for any reason. Results are quick, available on myehealth.com within 24 hours, and if you test positive they will call in the same time frame.

Also good news? My COVID-19 test that day was negative and it was likely just that regular ‘old’ coronavirus — the common cold. As of today, I’m one of more than 171,000 people who have been tested for COVID-19 in B.C. To date, there have been 2,775 cases in this province, and 168 deaths. Eleven people are in the hospital today with COVID-19, and five of those are in an ICU.

And so, despite the temporary discomfort, I would do it again.

For more information on how and when to get a COVID-19 test, visit www.bccdc.ca, call 8-1-1, or contact your physician’s office.

READ MORE:Canada buying 140,000 blood tests to begin immunity testing of COVID-19


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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