CORONAVIRUS: THE TEST

My Covid-19 testing journey

By Shani Reddy 30 March 2020

A nurse prepares a swab for testing a patient for Covid-19. (Photo: supplied)

Going for a coronavirus test? Prepare yourself for paperwork questions about your health and contacts, and then swabbing. It’s quick, but expect to gag, cough and feel very uncomfortable.

Shani Reddy gets a Covid Test Swab, 26 March 2020 (Photo: supplied)

A sore throat, a fever and a tight chest are symptoms one might attribute to the regular flu. However, after I had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-12, my healthcare practitioner advised me to get tested, too.

I was fortunate to have my test done at a private clinic, Intercare Medical Centre in Blaauwberg.

I was asked to wear a mask prior to entering the facility. On arrival, I was taken to an isolated room to avoid contact with other patients. The doctor came in, wearing gloves, a mask and eye protection. He sat at least two metres away from me.

I was asked a few basic questions: Have you travelled in the last 30 days? Have you been in contact with someone who has travelled? Have you been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19?

After answering these questions, I was led to a separate room with testing and examination equipment. My temperature was taken and the doctor listened to my chest.

Then began the paperwork. The doctor explained that the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD) requires two forms to be completed. The first related to me and my symptoms. I was asked if I experienced a fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, body aches, fatigue, sore throat or coughing – all of which can be signs of both common flu and Covid-19.

The second form asked me for a list of people I had been in contact with over the last week and where I had been. This was necessary, said the doctor, because, if I tested positive, the NICD would need to deploy tracer teams to track down and test everyone I had been in contact with.

The doctor then left and a nurse wearing the same protective gear entered to go over the forms with me one more time. Then a second nurse came in, wearing a surgical gown, gloves, eye protection and a duck-shaped respirator mask over her mouth.

Two swabs are necessary for Covid-19 testing, one from your nose and one from your throat. Collecting the swabs was relatively quick, but the process was far from comfortable and pain-free.

The first swab was taken from deep in my nose, with the nurse twirling and scraping my sinuses. It was a stabbing and burning sensation.

For the second, from the throat, the nurse had to shove the instrument down my throat, setting off gagging and coughing reflexes. Once again, scraping and twisting in a sensitive spot.

That was it; testing complete. My sample was labelled and sent off for analysis.

I was told there was a significant backlog with the tests and that, at best, I would have results within 72-hours, but it could take up to seven days. 

I was given an information sheet on what Covid-19 is and what I should and should not be doing. I was told to take Panado paracetamol for my symptoms and drink plenty of fluids.

The entire process, from the first phone call to collecting a sample, was quick and efficient. Nurses and the doctor were polite and compassionate.

If you feel you might have been in contact with someone who has Covid-19 it is important to make the responsible decision to get tested. MC

For more information on the Covid-19 virus, WhatsApp “Hi” to +27 600 123 456. If you have symptoms such as a cough, fever or difficulty breathing, arrange for a virtual or telephonic consultation with your healthcare provider. Alternatively, call the national coronavirus hotline (which operates 24/7) on 0800 029 999.

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