A testing time

Went for my Covid-19 swab today because I’d been feeling a bit tight in the old tubes and coughing more than I should. Also because I was a little curious. In retrospect this was a bad decision, but we can all be wise after the event, can’t we? Remind me never to go to a hospital again unless I really, really need to. Those people really scroll my knurd. They don’t seem to be able to take ‘No’ for an answer, which at one point began to seriously irritate.

Arriving at the testing centre a little later than my specified appointment time, I was requested to remain in my car and drive into a barnlike plastic canvas shed twelve feet or so high and ten wide staffed by three nurses in various forms of PPE. One in full PPE, the whole deal, plastic apron, surgical mask (Not an N95) and full plastic face shield, transparent arm length gloves, had a swab test ready. Another, a staff nurse or sister by the look of things wearing ordinary blue scrubs busily typed my details into a portable computer terminal. A third nurse sat in a chair some twelve feet away looking bored.

At no time did another vehicle arrive with anyone else for testing in the twelve minutes while I was there. I was the only one in the queue.

“Hi. Sorry I’m late. Took a wrong turn” I said and identified myself.
“That’s okay.” The girl in full PPE handed me a surgical mask. “Can you put this on?” So I did. “Can you describe your symptoms?” She asked, so I gave a brief rundown of my fairly mild symptoms which were easing. Hey, it was a sunny day and an excuse to get away from my desk, so why not?
“Can we do your blood gases?” Which was an odd request, but I said okay and they stuck that little gadget for measuring blood O2 levels on my finger. It came up within normal range. She asked me about my symptoms again and I spent the next five minutes explaining that no, I didn’t need to see a doctor, my symptoms were mild but easing. No, I’d spent far too much time indoors and probably needed more fresh air and exercise than anything else. And what I was suffering from was bronchial irritation, not chest pain.

It’s like I was speaking in another language, as she insisted on referring to a mild but receding discomfort and bronchial congestion as ‘pain’. No I didn’t feel feverish, no the condition did not ‘come and go’ nor the ‘pain’ radiate. I began to feel like these guys were seriously bored and wanted to talk me into a set of cardiac tests which were neither needed or wanted. Perhaps they were looking for something, anything to break the monotony. Besides, I had the full range of cardiac blood tests done last year and they all came up fine. Haematocrits well within range, platelets a little low, but that’s no bad thing. White cell count fine. Haemo goblins all happily wending their way through my arteries and veins. Heart problems flag up in those values long before they start causing infarctions (Heart attacks), this is basic diagnostics. Had the same conversation with a heart surgeon on this topic under 12 months ago and he confirmed that Bill Sticker’s ticker is tickety-boo. As did my GP on the follow up.

Finally, after me refusing for the third time to go for cardiac tests, the girl in full PPE announced that she was going to do the Covid-19 test. Which is the only reason I had attended in the first freaking place. So I closed my eyes and let her stick an oversize cotton bud up my nose and into my sinuses, which was more uncomfortable than the coughing and spluttering I’d been suffering from. Then she handed me a two page leaflet telling me what to do in terms of social distancing etc for every eventuality short of a meteor strike while I waited for my test results. After that exchange, somewhat reluctantly, they let me go and I took the pretty way home. Like I said. Maybe they were just bored.

This experience has reinforced the notion that this whole Covid-19 business is way overblown. The tests do little but find current infection. They do not either tell you at what stage of the infection you are at or track the more important immune response. If they’d just done the swab I could have been in and out inside three minutes. Hell, a simple blood test could have been done in that time.