I’ve been watching the news in binge fits for eight weeks now, but when I stood in front of my medical provider and listened to him tell me it was best that I get COVID tested a whole new reality to this thing washed over me. A range of conflicting reactions is probably the best way to describe it.
How I Got Here
I live in Prague where we are at least two weeks ahead of the United States with the pandemic changing life. In early March, my kids’ school shut down and we have been required to wear masks when leaving our homes since mid-March. I have always been a remote worker and my husband has been mostly remote for more than five weeks. When he does go in, he is the only one in the office at that time.
We’ve been really careful, and honestly, if you look at the numbers for the Czech Republic which shut down everything much sooner than a lot of its neighbors, our numbers are really low and the curve has flattened way out. I was starting to feel a little zen about the whole thing, and then I suddenly started noticing slight chest and back pain.
I have been participating in a virtual ab challenge with a group of local women I would normally work out with, and it involved an absurd number of sit-ups and crunches, something I normally try to avoid. So, I figured I must have strained something and rather happily stopped doing the work outs. But over the next six days, the pain got worse.
The noticeable thing about the pain is that it is only when I breathe deep or fast. I have no fever. I do have a cough which I thought was due to seasonal allergies. It seems like the cough started ages ago. But when the pain started waking me up at night, I finally called the medical office.
My main concern was that I had walking pneumonia. It never really crossed my mind I had COVID, but I knew I didn’t want to go to a hospital for chest x-rays where that particular ward would be certain to have COVID passing through it.
The PA came to my house and did an exam to determine I didn’t have any muscular-skeletal issues and then suggested I go get COVID tested. I later talked on the phone with my sister who is an ER doctor in Colorado who (somewhat more alarming) said it sounds fairly likely that I have it.
My other main concern was that I didn’t want to go in a building, or even a tent for that matter to get a test because I knew I would be standing around where hundreds of other COVID patients have been. If I don’t actually have it, that seemed like a pretty good way to get it. Thank goodness, Prague, like many places in the states has drive-through testing.
The drive through was remarkably easy. My husband drove me up to an outdoor tent where two workers in PPE took my paperwork and then one came back and put a swab up one nostril. This part is definitely unpleasant. The swab is LONG. I looked at it and it looked like it was nearly as long as my whole head. This was definitely cause for some mild alarm, but I did what I always do in these scenarios, which is just close my eyes and think about something else. I strongly recommend this if you need a test.
The sensation was very unpleasant, but it was over in three seconds.
This is the weird part as I wait to find out if I am a statistic in the news. I am vacillating between worry, and hoping it’s positive so I can get to the other side and enjoy life with some immunity.
The worry is natural, I mean I already have chest pain, is this going to get worse? I have three children, they need me (thankfully, they are completely asymptomatic).
The hoping I have it makes me feel terribly guilty. That’s an absurd thing to hope for – unless I come out unscathed in which case, I can live my normal life again and maybe help out others who need it. This is all very weird and causes a whole different kind of anxiety.
The main thing I do is scour the news looking for other people who have dealt with this, but there are not tons of first hand stories, and since I don’t have classic symptoms I’m left wondering if this is what “mild symptoms” means. I am not short of breath, it hurts to breathe, which is a little different.
I also worry if it is negative, do I then have to go to the hospital to get more tests? As I mentioned before, I’d rather steer clear of hospitals right now. I certainly wouldn’t want to get COVID on top of something else being wrong in my chest.
All of these thoughts lead me to the one realization that I am grateful it was so easy to get a test here. In most places because my symptoms aren’t severe enough or “classic” enough, I wouldn’t be tested. They may even tell me to quarantine and assume I have it, without testing me – but what if something else is wrong?
However this turns out, I have had so many questions about this thing, I decided it was best to write it up in hopes it can be useful to someone else.
Laura has been writing and editing for more than 25 years, a fact which more than a source of pride, sends her running to the wrinkle cream aisle of CVS. She has worked for CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, The Economist Intelligence Unit, and CBS radio. She has three children, and you will either find her thoroughly enjoying their company or yelling at them to clean up after themselves and turn off the lights.