This is what it’s like to be tested for COVID-19

Imagine what it’s like to have it...

It started with an itchy, runny nose. Then came the scratchy throat. Next was congestion that kept me up through the night. Finally, a deep cough – the icky kind.

I did not have a fever.

I did not feel fatigued.

I was not short of breath.

But I could not in good conscious be around others without knowing for sure. So I found a nearby urgent care center offering testing without an appointment or referral. I arrived 15 minutes before they opened and still waited about an hour from registration to swab completion.

Yes, it is quite uncomfortable, but it’s quick.

Now, here’s what really sucks about getting tested besides something being jabbed up your nose:

You disrupt not only your life, but the lives of everyone around you. From the moment you tell others that you’re feeling a little sick, the weight of being a major inconvenience presses down on you. You’re a burden. You’re a germ factory. You threaten the status quo. Your identity is now reduced to potential case number.

I had just started my new job on Tuesday, and had to call off on Friday, not knowing if I’d be back early the following week, or if I’d have to be out for several days. What if they fire me?

I also had to call off at my side job in retail. “What were your symptoms, so I can report it?” they asked. OMG – what if they have to shut down the entire store?

I didn’t get to visit my family to celebrate my brother getting into the Army.

My husband missed out on helping his best friend propose.

I had packages waiting in our community’s mail room that I couldn’t pick up, sales on Facebook Marketplace that I had to cancel, appointments I had to reschedule.

Suddenly, I was back at home 24/7, waiting in agony for a call that would determine the next couple of weeks of my life.

Then the call came. “Your COVID-19 test was negative,” the nurse said. I literally leaped through my apartment with joy. Negative. That word has never sounded so positive.

It’s hard to fear something that feels distant. Problems fade to the background when they aren’t right in our faces. There’s even a term being used for returning to “normal” life and forgetting safety guidelines when a situation is still dangerous: caution fatigue.

The pandemic is still very real, and damn does it throw life off the rails. In my few days of unbearable suspense, I experienced this. If having cold-like symptoms and awaiting test results can make you feel anxious, isolated and deeply concerned for your loved ones (and like your self esteem is on the floor), think what it would be like to hear, “your COVID-19 test was positive.”

This should go without saying, but people with COVID-19 are not any less human than those without it; they need support, understanding, and companionship. They need to not be viewed as a hazard or a number. (That includes their employers, coworkers, friends, family members…)

Everyone is going through different degrees and forms of devastation right now. Empathy will get us through.


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