I did a COVID-19 PCR test on the 15th of June 2021 and the result, which came the next day, was positive. The story though started a full week earlier, on 8th June.
8th June: Something is wrong
8th June was a pretty normal day by any measure for me. Working from home, the day progressed with me tackling various work tasks. It was only at around 5pm that I felt just a little uneasy. Something I couldn’t put a finger to just felt off, strange. With hindsight, this was my body’s first reaction to the infection. At the time though, it simply felt like some hard-to-describe minor discomfort. Usually, my work from home routine doesn’t really have any defined “close of business”. This Tuesday wasn’t any different and so after that short pause, I continued up to around 7PM.
My wife and I belong to a church cell (St. Francis Chapel based) which meets on Tuesday. By coincidence, we were the facilitators that week and so I settled down to review our material. That was the point I felt a distinct throb somewhere within the recesses of my head. By the time the cell meeting started, the throb had turned into a dull headache. Headaches for me are pretty rare and are usually a sign of fatigue and so I rarely take painkillers for them. Instead, I simply rest and that is usually sufficient to get rid of them. A good night’s sleep always does wonders. In this case however, I was a bit confused since there wasn’t any reason for me to be fatigued. I can always tell when I’ve pushed myself too much and that was not the case here. But by the time we logged off after a an hour and a half, I was actually feeling terribly tired. I know Zoom calls can be draining but this wasn’t that kind of call 🙂
I decided to apply the usual remedy and dived right into bed.
9th June: Something is definitely wrong
Today was a public holiday which under usual circumstances wouldn’t have made much difference for me schedule-wise. But when I woke up, not only was I still feeling very tired but the headache was still very much present. This was the moment I realised I was probably unwell. It was also the moment the suspicion it might be COVID became a lot more concrete in my mind. The suspicion had crossed my mind the previous night but the complete absence of any other symptoms had quickly swept the thought away.
It was hard to dismiss it just like that especially as the day wore on. But apart from feeling completely drained, I didn’t have any other symptoms. No cough, no sore throat, no fever, no laboured breathing. My oxygen level was 93-94 but that’s exactly the same reading our oximeter had been giving me since we bought it at the end of 2020. I therefore decided to isolate myself and take it easy. That’s how I ended up spending the whole of Heroes Day in bed.
Two things convinced me that whatever was ailing me was probably a bit more serious than I thought. The first was that despite spending the day in bed, I felt even more tired in the evening. Secondly, the intermittent headaches returned in the evening. I knew I had to go and see a doctor the next day.
Before that, I asked my wife to prepare the steaming bucket. I had done a couple of steaming sessions in recent weeks at the urging of my mum (bless her) but that night, I did it entirely of my own volition. My wife also whipped up one of those [garlic+honey+ many other things] concoctions whose recipes have contributed quite a bit to internet service provider bottom lines during this season.
10th June: Seeing the doctor + first test
On waking up on the 10th, I immediately realized there was yet another problem: a somewhat dull chest pain that felt like a cross between heartburn and a knock to the chest. But it didn’t feel like any of the classic Covid symptoms – at the very least, I was sure it wasn’t originating from my lungs. Moreover, changing posture seemed to alleviate it a bit which I doubt would be the case for Covid.
As I walked through the clinic entrance, I wondered what the protocol for suspected Covid cases was. Should I make it clear to the receptionist that I might be a case for the sake of the rest? But that could be misconstrued as trying to get preferential treatment I reasoned. I settled for passing a not-too-subtle hint by asking whether the clinic was doing Covid tests. Interestingly, the lady behind the desk didn’t seem to be concerned that much as she nodded yes.
Even more interestingly, the doctor didn’t seem perturbed as I described my symptoms. Granted, he was double-masked and a couple of feet away but I don’t think he’d have been that relaxed if this were June 2020. We’ve clearly come a long way from the dread of the early days of the pandemic although I think the newer strains should be cause for that kind of concern. After listening to my narration, he agreed it would be good to do a Covid test. The lab could only do the rapid antigen type so I went for it.
This was the first time I was doing this test and so I was naturally anxious about the “nose poke”. Everything I’d heard about it was that the experience of undergoing it ranged from unpleasant to downright traumatic. My logical self reasoned it couldn’t be that bad given the millions that had undertaken it. Probably seeing that I looked a bit apprehensive, the lab lady assured me it would be just a bit uncomfortable but not painful. That was rather reassuring and so I threw my head back and waited for the “bit uncomfortable but not painful” poke/ scrape.
Later in the day, while chatting with my boss, I tried to describe the test experience and realized I actually was unable to do so accurately. How do you describe a sensation you’ve never felt before, the location of which felt like it was simultaneously in your nose, roof of the mouth and deep inside your head, that was both uncomfortable and ticklish? The closest description I can think of now is that it was like scratching my brain with a toothpick for 2 or 3 seconds.
Some 30 minutes or so after the test, the doctor called me in and gave me good news – the result was negative. I had also done the other usual range of tests off a blood sample and they were all good. “Looking at these results, all I can say is you’re perfectly healthy” he proclaimed. “The weakness, fatigue and headaches may simply be just that – fatigue. So you need to rest and I’ll give you some painkillers for the headaches. However, if you feel worse, come back immediately. If not, come back after 5 days”. The 5 day request was to do with something else I’d raised with him – an unrelated health concern that we both agreed would be better attended to once the current, more urgent problem had been resolved. To be honest, during the 30 minute wait, I’d realized that I was feeling even weaker than previously. So this diagnosis was at complete odds to what my body was saying. I then engaged the doctor on the nature of the rapid test, it’s accuracy etc. He conceded that it is not as accurate as the PCR one but pointed out that a false negative is – at the very minimum – usually a sign that one is fighting the virus pretty well. That was quite encouraging so I picked the meds and left.
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as exhausted as I felt when I got home that day. Even now, it is hard to explain how weak and tired I felt. On the outside, I looked pretty fine but just walking from the car to the bedroom (which was by now effectively my isolation unit) felt like my legs would buckle anytime. The doctor’s “perfect health” proclamation kept ringing in my head as I retired for the night.
11th June: Bed rest
Woke up really late and realised I was still really, really weak. Plus – my head was throbbing a bit. So I dived back into bed and stayed there the whole day. Didn’t even read my email. Dragged myself out to watch the first Euro 2020 match and I’m surprised I’m able to sit up that long. Maybe the day’s rest had done a trick.
Go to bed after the match but completely fail to sleep – I guess I had maxxed out my daily quota of sleep hours during the day. But I’m unable to either do anything productive or focus on anything so I lie in bed awake for a couple of hours and drift off towards 4AM.
12th June: I think I’m getting better
On waking up, I realise something immediately: for the first time in 3 days, there was no sign of a headache. Buoyed by this realization, I sit up and also notice that I am not feeling as weak as the day before. All sorts of good emotions wash over me. One small problem though – the pulse oximeter won’t switch on. Did it really have to die now? Anyway, I suspect the batteries may have run out and make a mental note to replace them as soon as possible.
As the day goes on, I really feel better. I begin thinking that the rapid test was spot on and maybe it was really just fatigue from my heavy work and study workload over the past month.
I watch the day’s Euro matches and retire in considerably higher spirits than the past few days.
13th June: I am definitely better.
It’s a Sunday. I wake up early enough to tune into the St. Francis streamed service. I feel much much better. Still weak but not the “my-legs-could-give-way-under-me-any-second” kind of weakness.
In the evening, I feel well enough (and confident enough that it was definitely not Covid) to take the kids for a spot of tennis (the court is a short distance from home). I am however not strong enough to join in. Still, I feel rejuvenated by being out and watching them practise their strokes. I also make sure to buy new batteries for the oximeter.
As I retire, I feel certain that whatever was ailing me was a temporary, minor issue and life will be back to normal in a couple of days.
14th June: Wait a minute – I can’t smell or taste anything!
I wake up a bit late – a consequence of my shifting sleep patterns since Friday. But I’m feeling even better than yesterday and so I turn on my laptop to quickly scan my email (which I hadn’t attended to for 3 or so days). That quick mail check morphs into actual work and so I end up going for a shower late-morning. (I’m in isolation remember).
In the bathroom, just as on the 8th when this all started, I get a sense that something is just not right but I can’t put a finger on it. Which is strange because, in all honesty, I am feeling pretty good. Much stronger, no headache, no chest pain. So what is it? Well – whatever it was hits me the moment I pick up the soap and start lathering my head. That was the moment it dawns on me that I couldn’t smell the soap! Like anyone else that’s ever had a congested nose during a cold or bout of flu, I know diminished smell does happen. But I didn’t have anything like nasal congestion! As if in denial, I hold the soap close to my nose and inhale – nothing! Now – my usual routine involves brushing before bathing but for some reason, I did it the other way round that day. So – with a sense of trepidation, I squeeze the toothpaste tube and start brushing. And yeah – I couldn’t taste anything. The irony in all this is I use a toothpaste brand that tastes horrible under normal circumstances and not being able to taste it would ordinarily be a blessing :-). In this case however, all it did was induce a sinking feeling of dread. This was the moment I knew for sure – with crystal clarity – what was ailing me.
After the bath, I updated my wife. Describing the Covid test experience is hard but it is far easier than describing what loss of taste feels like. My morning beverage of choice is usually sugarless coffee but I opted for tea with sugar. Again, I couldn’t taste anything…
So – it was time to go back to the doc. By the time I gather my thoughts though, it is already a bit late and I opt to take it easy the rest and go there early the next day. I was feeling markedly better than the tail-end of the last week. I decide to check my oxygen level again and so I swap out the batteries. Damn – the thing still doesn’t come on despite the fresh batteries! Yet, it’s barely been used in 6 months.
15th June: Seeing the doctor again + second test
The doctor (a different one from last week) wasted no time writing out a referral to an external lab for a PCR test. At the lab, I’m astonished to find a multitude of people waiting for their turn for the test. But the lab appears well prepared for the numbers with a number of waiting tents with well-spaced seating and helpful, courteous staff. I go through the administrative procedures and wait in one of the tents for my turn.
When my turn comes, I make it to one of the testing booths where the appearance of the fully-PPE clad lab technician reminds me of the gravity of the situation. Small talk ensues and then he tells me he’ll be collecting two samples – one from my nose and the other from my throat. I cheerfully tell him the throat procedure could not possibly be as bad as the nose one and so it was OK with me. “Oh – let’s start with the throat then” he replies.
I was wrong. The throat swab turns out to be far worse (for me) than the nasal one. Whereas the nasal one again feels like a brief tickling in the recesses of my head, poking my throat almost induces me to throw up! I tell the technician I had got it wrong and I think he smiles. Can’t tell because of the mask.
The ladies at the administrative desk tell me the results will be in my mailbox within 12 hours. That means I’ll only be able to go back to hospital the next day.
Back home, my wife has prepared my favourite dish for dinner – fish. And I CAN’T TASTE ANY OF IT! Again, I don’t know how to describe how lousy it is not to be able to taste anything. Or how weird and underwhelming it is to use the texture and sight of food to imagine the taste. That said, I’m sure I speak for many people who’ve been in the same boat that loss of taste and smell are pretty bearable compared to the other more serious symptoms. What worries me though is that I’m flying blind as far as my oxygen levels are concerned. Earlier in the day, I had contacted Rocket Health from whom I’d bought the oximeter and they had assured me they’d replace it under warranty. But I hadn’t gotten round to doing that yet.
Later, in bed, I unexpectedly develop a brief bout of cough. It strikes me that it was the kind that I’d have likely ignored as some kind of temporary throat irritation under other circumstances but in this case, it causes all sorts of apprehension.
16th June: I’m positive. Unsurprisingly.
I check my mail as soon as I wake up and there’s nothing despite it being close to 20 hours since the test. Chatting with my sister, she tells me she’s heard quite a number of people are experiencing delays with their results because of the upsurge in numbers. I relax and go about my morning routine. When I check again in vain towards 10AM, I decide to hit the road and go back to the lab. Apart from the fact the lab people had assured me the result would take no more 12 hours (and I had no reason to doubt them given the level of professionalism they had exhibited all through), I also reasoned that I’d have to see the doctor again regardless of the outcome and so I might as well go to town. Also, I needed to get the oximeter replaced or at least get a new one.
I also notice that the cough seems to have settled down into a pattern – a really short bout of 4 or 5 coughs – each hour.
At Rocket Health, the oximeter is swapped out with no fuss at all. Incidentally, conscious of the fact that I could be positive, I opt to stay in the car on arrival and call them for advice but I fail to get through so I’m left with no option but to go up to their office. Back in the car, I quickly give the new instrument a test drive and I like the results: O2 = 99%. That is way better – some 5 percentage points – than the old one ever gave me…
At the lab, they’re a bit surprised to see me and they explain that they sent the results already. On checking, it turns out they got the email address wrong. In their defence, this was really a consequence of my lousy handwriting. So they quickly correct this and send the result slip again. They also print out a copy for me…
Quite unsurprisingly, the result is positive. In bold. In dark red with a bright red border. ALL CAPS. Set at an oblique angle, probably to stand out even more. Unsurprising really given the loss of taste/smell – nearly everyone I personally know that’s tested positive in the recent past also experienced the same.
How do you take bad news? It depends on what kind of bad news it is and how bad, right? In my case, the moment I saw the red rectangle with “POSITIVE“, two things flooded my mind. The first was how weird it was to test positive when I was clearly on the mend after my first negative (rapid) test. I checked my oxygen level again – 98% now. Still good. The second thought was a bit more morbid – my mind went back to the start of the pandemic back in 2020 and recalled the dread and uncertainty I felt then (which I wrote about then). Coming to the present, I also thought about the daily reports of shockingly high bills, suffering and death. I was familiar with the bills since my sister-in-law had recently been discharged after a stint of about 10 days in hospital. Rather quickly though, I pushed all these thoughts to the back of my head and made my way back to the clinic.
The same dilemma I faced on my first visit last week surfaces as I park – do I disclose my status to the front-desk attendants immediately for precaution’s sake? I elect to do so for my own peace of mind. Again, the lady doesn’t seem to be too concerned. I conclude that they’ve now seen enough Covid cases and it’s just another ailment for them. Still, I sit outside until the call to see the doctor comes through.
The doctor asks me exactly how I feel despite the test result. We go through all my symptoms which – at this point are essentially the intermittent cough, loss of taste/smell and the lingering fatigue. No fever. No sore throat. O2 99%. No headaches for the past three or so days. Shortness of breath – yes but only after some kind of physical exertion. No hint of fever whatsoever. She gives me a useful pep talk about what I needed to do and prescribes Azithro (she explains that this is because of the slight cough otherwise it wouldn’t be needed), Vitamin C and Zinc. She asks about the rest of my household and recommends they too embark on a course of Vitamin C and Zinc supplements as a preventive measure.
On the way home, I reflect on what all this means. Usually, I listen to the BBC if I happen to be in the car during the day. This time though, I opt for some upbeat dancehall music. Why not?
Having talked to my wife earlier to break the news, it is a bit emotional when I get home. One could do with a long hug during moments like this but that’s out of the question for now so I head straight to my “isolation unit”.
First agenda item on settling down: breaking the news. Outside my immediate family, there are three categories of people I need to tell:
- Probable contacts + work mates.
- The people I personally wouldn’t want to be taken by surprise by news of my possible hospitalization or – God forbid – demise.
- The people whose messages I knew for sure would bring a smile and warm my heart during the time I’d be down.
I idly observe that groups (2) and (3) overlap greatly which I find oddly reassuring. Also rather interesting is the realisation that a significant number of those 2 groups are people I initially connected with virtually (Twitter mostly). This makes me think about how friendships rise and wane throughout life. A close friend had pinged me on Whatsapp earlier but I hadn’t seen the message yet. On responding with my status update, she calls immediately and it turns out she too had tested positive…
17th – 26th June: Isolation thoughts
The positive test meant I had to tighten my isolation and so I was pretty much alone for the next 10 days. Incidentally, I usually have no problem with solitude. Indeed, I often find solace in being alone especially when I have work to do. I’ve always been like that – reserved, shy and reluctant to socialize. Despite working for a telecom for more than a decade, I also dislike voice phone calls and very much prefer messaging. So you’d think I’d be the perfect specimen for isolation. Well, that’d be wrong. Like many things in life, it really depends on the circumstances. First of all, the solitude I enjoy isn’t the kind that excludes my own family – wife and kids. Not at all. Secondly, this particular solitude wasn’t conducive for any kind of productive activity. I didn’t touch my laptop for days and neither was I able to pick up a book to read. I’d already reduced the time I spend on Twitter (the only social media platform I frequent) earlier in the year and even this downtime wasn’t enough to entice me to go back to frequent tweeting. Until I was well enough to resume work, all I did was relax and think. And think. And think even more.
So many things crossed my mind during these ten days. I can’t recount everything in this post which is already much longer than I thought it’d be. But there were a couple of themes that kept running through my mind throughout:
- Vaccines: I had already received the first AstraZeneca jab and my second was due on the 20th of June. I’ve been a proponent of getting vaccinated as soon as possible and I had indeed had a number of arguments on Whatsapp with anti-vaxxers (many of whom I was surprised to discover held those views). With time though, I had largely stopped engaging them since it was clear it was a waste of time. Only the most ridiculous posts would draw a weary “seriously?” response from me (how do you believe the vaccines have microchips in them?). My concern was to convince those dear to me to go for the jab. Now, I obviously knew that my testing positive would provide fodder for my anti-vaxxer friends. However, to me – it was all very plausible: I had only received a single shot and one doesn’t get the maximum protection until a few weeks after the booster shot. More importantly however, maximum protection doesn’t mean you can’t get infected. What it means is that the infection will not develop into severe Covid illness requiring hospitalization. If anything, my symptoms up to that point were consistent with what I’d expect having received a single jab – mild, short-lasting symptoms. My experience should be a good example of the utility of these vaccines. Seeing the huge amount of disinformation about vaccines has been depressing especially when evidence from all over the world is clear – the vaccines are working as well as we could hope for.
- Source?: The second issue that I thought about a lot especially in the early days was where on earth I could have picked the infection from. I happen to be doing a university course and after trying to trace my movements, I came to the conclusion I must have picked the virus during the exams I’d just completed (the last paper was on the 4th of June, 4 days before I started feeling queasy). I updated my course mates about my diagnosis and was not surprised to learn that a number of them had also developed symptoms around the same time. However, they were also well on the road to recovery which was very encouraging.
- The Emotional Toll: Remarkably – in physical terms, I was never as unwell after the positive test as I was from the 9th to the 11th. As recounted earlier, I was much better by the time I lost my taste/smell. The intermittent cough vanished 2 days into the treatment. But I can’t say the same for the emotional side of things. It is extremely surreal to know that you’re harbouring a tiny pathogen that had literally messed up the whole world, leaving numerous deaths and economic/societal upheaval in its wake. Of course, I knew that the majority of cases were recovering – indeed, most of the people I knew who’d been infected by this time had either made full recoveries or were well on their way to doing so. But the problem, as I’d written about previously, was that the virus seemed to enjoy selecting victims at random. Here I was, a 40 year old, slightly overweight male. Nothing about me made me more special than those who had unfortunately lost their lives to the virus. Granted, I am not terribly unfit (having managed to finally adopt a somewhat regular exercise routine since the first lockdown) but then again, I was most likely hosting one of the more infectious strains of the virus. (I marvelled once again at the fact that a virus is not considered to be a living thing by scientists.) All these thoughts swirled around my mind in the first days after the positive test and each time, I tried to bat them back by reminding myself the worst appeared to be over and it had lasted a mere 3 days, that the first jab would have a positive impact, that the odds were hugely in my favour and so on. But it just felt so surreal especially given the constant reminders come meal times that I was not exactly well – I was still a lot weaker than normal and I still couldn’t taste or smell a thing. The loss of these senses is probably one of the weirdest things to ever happen to me. Again, it is hard to explain the weirdness. Other reminders were the continuous stream of death announcements. During the first wave, the most shocking death (for me, personally) was that of the late James Saaka, a gentleman I respected immensely. This second wave though was sending shockwaves nearly every single day.
- Positivity vs Negativity?: The emotional toll made it rather interesting to see debates start popping up on some groups towards the end of my isolation regarding the need to “be positive in the face of all the negativity being spread”. Positivity was about not sending death announcements, focusing on the recovery statistics, not reading the grim hospital bill stories etc. I found these arguments quite fascinating for the simple reason that they were really an attempt to alter the way the human mind works. There’s a reason we’re wired to take note of negative things more – that’s to compel us to take appropriate “evasive” actions. I wondered whether any of the proponents of the positive message was in isolation at the time or if they had any patient in hospital. Of course, negative news can take its toll on one. But in this case, I wondered how practical it was to try and block it all out. Even if you switched off all the sources of news, the truth was you’d be reminded soon enough by the fact that you’re locked down at home. Lockdowns and curfews don’t happen when everything is all nice and rosy. I think the most important thing is to cultivate a sense of stoicism – being able to digest and compartmentalise all the bad news while maintaining hope for a better tomorrow. I was reminded of the futility of trying to block bad news or at least focus on only the good when I scanned through a WhatsApp group that I rarely check (now I had the time to do that): Someone had shared a “positive” piece by Joseph Kabuleta focusing on recoveries etc and quite a number of group members were applauding the message. A few hours after that message had been posted, a death announcement popped up with a terrible twist – the deceased was a member of the group.
- Covidex: One of the most intriguing developments recent weeks has been the Covidex story. I tried to keep up with the story because it was not only a truly amazing story but also quite relevant! (I also followed the various stories about steaming and concoctions – we had stopped steaming before the various for/against stories started circulating simply because we felt there was no need to steam if our passages weren’t congested. Back to Covidex, I was truly baffled at the whole back and forth between the various parties: Prof. Ogwang, the NDA, MUST, Ministry of Health etc. My personal take was that it was yet more proof that we just don’t do science well in this country. Where were/are all the structures that are supposed to facilitate drug R&D and the whole lab-to-market process? Granted, it wasn’t OK to simply release it without following the appropriate process but does that appropriate process actually exist? Is it fit for purpose even for normal situations let alone abnormal ones like this pandemic? I did a quick search for “Uganda clinical trial regulations” and came across a PowerPoint presentation by NDA, a list of trials authorised in Uganda since 2016 and not much else. I’d honestly expect a lot more to show up on such a subject. The list looks interesting and I promise myself I’ll scrutinise it closely later when I’m better. For now, I’m not really in the mood for hard mental work. Anyway, in this debate, I was firmly on Prof. Ogwang’s side – his track record in this field was quite impressive and my thinking was this was one of those cases of a brilliant innovator coming across a frustrating bureaucracy and opting to sidestep it. Obviously, there were a couple of things I found a bit disconcerting about the whole saga including the fact that it was close to impossible to get any details about how the medicine works (as in what it does inside the body once it’s administered as opposed to the “I took it and now I’m well!” reports). The nerd in me would have lapped up every detail especially during the days I wasn’t doing anything else. After all, I had closely followed the vaccine development journeys from mid-2020 all the way up to their release at the end of the year/start of 2021. I made a mental note to keep following the story regardless of the outcome.
27th June: I think I’m OK
By the weekend of the 26th, I was pretty sure I had recovered fully. Earlier in the week, I had resumed work albeit a greatly reduced load. I knew I had to ease myself gently back into work – for my own good! On the 27th, I decided it was time for a follow-up PCR test.
I tweeted this in jest since I had already decided to head to the RDC’s office the next day (Monday) for that all-important movement permit.
28th June: At the RDC’s Office
I make my way to the RDC’s office on Monday morning (a distance of about 2km from our home but pretty un-walkable for me at this point). On arrival, I’m impressed to discover that the gentleman in charge of managing the queue is speech-impaired and he’s using sign-language to direct us. The only problem is that I don’t really understand his directions. After further observation, I conclude he’s telling me to take a seat outside with sufficient space between myself and the guy ahead of me which is perfectly reasonable. Shortly after I’ve taken my seat, a security guard comes and asks me why I’m there. “Uh, I tested positive 2 weeks ago and I’d like to go back and test to see if I’m OK now” I respond. Ho! The mention of a positive test clearly takes my armed friend by surprise and he steps back. “You are positive” he asks? “With Covid?” he continues before I’m able to respond. “Yes, I was. But I think I’m OK now so I want to go and confirm”. “Wait here” he says and dashes off to the RDC’s office which is actually on the first floor (I’m seated in the queue on the ground floor – there aren’t that many people but the spacing makes the line of seats much longer).
Before I even reflect on the impact of the “tested positive” information on the security guy, another official appears and asks me to make my. way upstairs. Upstairs, one of the clerks quickly asks me for my details, fills in the form and hands it to my new guide to take for stamping/signing. Within a couple of minutes, I have the signed/stamped permit in my hands and I’m simply in awe of how the mention of a positive test unlocks premium, express service. As I make my way out, the askari shows up again. The following conversation ensues:
- Him: Did you actually say you tested positive?
- Me: Yes
- Him: But you didn’t show me the results.
- Me (pulling out my phone to show him the results PDF which I had actually opened prior to going upstairs): Let me show you – here you are.
- Him (while peeking at the document): Why is it on your phone? You don’t have a printout?
- Me: PCR tests are sent to test subjects by email. I got this by email.
- Him: Really? Why? I hadn’t heard about that.
- Me: You can’t wait for the results at the lab because it takes a long time – usually 24 hours or even more. Mailing the results is for convenience so you don’t have to go back.
He looks rather unconvinced at this point but lets me go – probably because it dawns on him that he may be talking to an infectious person. Our little exchange makes me wonder how it is possible that some people, right here in an urban setting, don’t know such basics about Covid tests so many months into the pandemic. I also wonder what people without email addresses do when they test – do they opt to go back for them or is it incentive enough for them to quickly sign up for one? Or they use a third-party’s? All sorts of random thoughts as I make my way back home.
29th June, 10:00hrs: At the lab again
There aren’t as many people at the lab this time as was the case on the 15th and 16th. I’ve been thinking about the impact of the lockdown on access to tests and I wonder if the lower numbers are down to that.
I proceed with the administrative procedures and shortly find myself in a test booth for the swab sampling. Again, the mouth swab is a horrible experience and the nasal one is, well, hard to describe. I tell the lab guy this is one of those experiences I would never ever get used to and he smiles while bidding me farewell. Ok, I think he smiled behind the double masks and face shield.
The ladies tell me the result will be in my inbox within 12 hours which means the same day since it was mid-morning.
For reasons that probably only a psychologist can explain, I feel a lot more nervous waiting for the results than the for the first PCR test. It is actually so bad I can’t concentrate. I end up doing a lot more Twitter than I had done in weeks (a lot more replies, comments etc) to keep my mind off the wait. I realize I’ve probably never been this anxious before. Ok, that’s not true – waiting outside the hospital theatre awaiting the arrival of our first baby was properly nerve-wracking. But this is close.
29th June, 21:15hrs: NEGATIVE!
29th June is a Tuesday and so we’re having cell online again. Towards, the end, I notice an email notification that had actually come in about an hour and a half earlier. I open the mail app and my heart skips a beat when I see it’s from the lab. I feel my heart rate go up as I open the attachment…
Even before I make out the words, I see a hint of green. And yes, there’s the word NEGATIVE. In green. Bold again. Obliquely angled rectangle again.
I feel the need to scream.
I hold it in.
In a bit of a daze but I jump up and show it to my wife like a trophy I’d just won.
I forward the result slip to my siblings.
Then I screenshot the bit with the green rectangle and forward to my group (1) and (2) people.
There’s nothing more to say or do after that really. Waves of emotion and feelings of gratitude – for life, for health, for my wife who took care of me with every ounce of energy she had, for family and friends who kept checking on me – sweep over me.
4th July: Epilogue
I’m editing this on Sunday afternoon. I’m no longer in isolation and life is back to normal in the household. It definitely appears I did not pass the virus on to anyone else – praying it stays this way. I celebrated my negative status by going out a few days ago to buy a new set of toothbrushes. OK – among other things including a couple of chocolate bars. Life’s little pleasures.
A quick peek at Twitter reveals life is pretty normal there as well – UOT have kicked up a storm over dates. The human meeting kind, not the fruit or calendar variety. I smile and close the app.
I wrote bits and pieces of all this throughout the isolation and so I’m trying to tidy things up with the aim of publishing it later. But I’m marvelling at how badly written everything is – a lot of rambling, jumbled up tenses etc. So messy. Do I care? Not a single iota! I’ve been given a new lease of life and that’s all I care about. It still feels absolutely weird that I had the virus, the same virus that’s still killing people left, right and centre. I do feel some pangs of what’s being described as “survivor’s guilt”. I’m also aware that I’m not yet 100% OK. My taste and smell started coming back some a few days after the positive test. Unfortunately, they’re not yet as sharp even now as they were before and the difference is rather obvious. I’ve also noticed some lingering weakness and feelings of fatigue. Taking a walk to the neighbourhood trading centre shops a couple of days ago, it was impossible to escape the fact that I felt breathless a lot faster than previously. That worries me a bit as does the fact that I feel tired sitting at my laptop after a much shorter time. I’ve also been pondering what the future holds – this pandemic has showed us all that there’s a single hospital bill between our somewhat comfortable lives (I mean those reading this, not the masses living close to the poverty line) and literal bankruptcy. That means one has to work harder, save more to prepare for such eventualities. But the pandemic has also forced me (and many others I guess) to reevaluate my life and determine what truly matters. For many of us who’ve been fortunate enough to survive, the determination to spend more quality time with loved ones or personal hobbies will be one of the new goals that emerge from all this soul-searching. The two things are almost diametrically opposed. Let’s see how it goes.
For now, I need to log off and catch the Austrian F1 GP. Ah – F1… Another one of life’s pleasures!