A health official prepares to take samples for a coronavirus test. Photo: AP Photo/George Calin
A health official prepares to take samples for a coronavirus test. Photo: AP Photo/George Calin

What it’s like to get tested for coronavirus

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OPINION:

WHEN word of the coronavirus began to quite literally spread across the globe, I found myself almost repulsed by the public's response.

The disease too easily became the punchline to every joke and passing comment as if the deaths of those living in China weren't as serious because it didn't directly affect us.

It became clear once COVID-19 reached our own backyard that it was no longer a laughing matter, but a threat to be taken with the utmost urgency.

I consider myself a realist that tends to err on the side of cynicism - not that you should dismiss the severity of the situation, but I try not to feed into the associated hysteria.

That's why it was so difficult for me to get tested for coronavirus.

News broke last week of a young man whose results returned positive and I quickly realised he potentially came into contact with myself.

Much to my dismay, I braved the hour-long wait while calling 13 HEALTH and answered "no" to a series of questions that I'm sure broke some sort of record.

Yet it seemed my confirmation of a sore throat was enough to set off the alarms, and I was given the advice to visit a GP within the next 12 hours.

I don't want to sound remiss or uneducated about the outbreak, and I understand completely the threat it poses to those vulnerable, but the idea of being tested for a disease I was quite confident I didn't have was more than humiliating.

In calling my local GP I was advised under no circumstances could I enter the building, but was required to call the centre once I had arrived.

It was then I began to identify with the word "leper" more than I ever had before.

This wasn’t my best moment.
This wasn’t my best moment.

After waiting in the doctor's carpark for some time, a nurse wearing the appropriate protective gear came to me with a referral in order to be tested for the virus.

I was sure to notify the testing centre ahead of arriving in an effort to prevent any mass panic, and was again instructed to wait outside the building for a nurse.

At the exact moment the medical professional came to me with my own face mask, a young family walked by - if looks could kill, I wouldn't have even had the chance to take the test.

I watched as the nurse suited up with a surgical gown, a face mask, gloves and a plastic visor all while making sure to sanitise her hands multiple times.

It wasn't until I had to sign a document and the nurse immediately sterilised the pen that my jaw almost hit the floor.

Again, did I mention I felt like a leper?

It's not lost on me that I was viewing the experience through the lens of a person who was sure they hadn't contracted the disease - in hindsight, it was great to see that our medical professionals were taking all the necessary precautions.

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Simply, the test itself was awful. A swab in both nostrils and down my throat doesn't sound all too bad, but it certainly wasn't pleasant.

I left the building with a sliver of dignity intact and began to self-isolate until I received my results, which I was ensured would take up to 48 hours.

Yet I was left hanging for four days.

As the hours dragged on I was sure those who I had come into contact with before taking the test would soon show up at my doorstep with pitchforks demanding an answer I didn't have.

Waiting for the results was as bad as the test itself - not that I was concerned for my own health, yet the idea of passing it onto someone vulnerable began to eat me up.

After what felt like an eternity and multiple phone calls on my part, I finally heard the confirmation that I had suspected from the start: the test returned negative.

Here's the thing: I don't have all the answers. While I was confident I hadn't contracted the disease, and I continue to implore others to remain calm, what will happen in the future remains unknown to us all.

The only thing we can do is prove our unity in the face of a pandemic that has the potential to tear us apart.

That's a test we need to pass.


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