Last week, I woke up feeling like I had the flu. I was extremely tired, my throat was sore and my body ached. It felt like a virus or a cold I normally get when I’m feeling run down.
But, this time it was different. This time, my mind raced. Where had I been? Who had I been in contact with? Had I touched my face? Was I infected with the coronavirus?
I turned to Doctor Google and entered “coronavirus symptoms” and “what areas have cases of coronavirus”. Was this going to be the new normal from now on? Whenever we feel a bit sick?
I spoke to my Mum who also was exhibiting flu-like symptoms — something that was even more fear-inducing because she is “high-risk” — over the age of 60, with a pre-existing medical condition. We had just spent Mother’s Day together and I had prepared her food. Did I infect her or did she infect me?
I knew the chances that I’d contracted COVID-19 were slim, but you never really know. With the few people I’ve seen recently, I could have infected them and they could have infected their family and friends. What a time.
After day three of feeling rotten, I made an appointment to speak to my doctor over the phone.
The doctor suggested that I head to a testing clinic “just to be on the safe side” as now, “anyone with symptoms should come forward for COVID-19 testing.” I visited a pop-up testing centre in Manly, in Sydney’s north — my anxiety levels rising as I approached.
Walking up to the testing centre, what greeted me was something out of a film — a big white marquee, people in masks waiting for patrons. It was a lot to process and a lot to take in. A world away from the confines of my apartment where I’ve been bunkering down for the past two months.
The staff — security, nurses, clinic technicians and volunteers, were all extremely friendly. Jovial even, and making the best of a shitty situation. It was weird. Their job, obviously to make this as carefree as possible.
When you arrive, you put on a mask and wash your hands with hospital-grade soap — something that already me uneasy due to repeating this process over and over when both my sister and father were cancer patients.
You give all of your details and then you’re ushered into the white tent. It was completely empty and to make it feel even eerier, the weather was miserable. The security guard said he’d stand with me so I wasn’t alone and I was secretly grateful to him and his stories (which I can’t even remember).
The nurses usher me inside and it was here, that you feel like you stepped onto a movie set. All of the staff were in full hazmats suits, adorned with protective headgear and trying to “smize” (smile with their eyes) through the paraphernalia. It was a lot to take in.
I found myself very emotional. My nurse Bella couldn’t have been nicer though. She explained everything to me in great detail. Here was the swab. We would do the back of the throat first and you may feel like gagging. Great. Then, it would go up each nostril. “It’s normal for your eyes to water”, she said.
The test itself was uncomfortable, but it was over pretty quickly, and then I was ushered back outside. Everyone was still smizing, telling you to feel better and to have a great day.
What. The. Hell. Just. Happened?
Apparently, each testing clinic is seeing upwards of 100-200 people per day — and we need to keep this level of testing up in order to stay on top of the virus.
Results come back via text and to be honest, it’s an excruciating 24-48 hour wait. I don’t think my heart could have raced any faster when my phone beeped to tell me my results were ready. I felt like a criminal. Like I had done something wrong.
My text read: “At this time, your test result for the COVID-19 sample which was collected on 15/05/2020 is NEGATIVE.”
Of course, this was my experience and it’s extremely important to be vigilant when it comes to your health and the health of others.
If you’re presenting any symptoms, head to your closest COVID-19 testing centre.
The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.