I had a drive-through COVID test the other day.
I pulled up to a line of cars entering a large white tent in a hospital parking lot. I could see from a distance that inside the tent were people in gowns with masks, gloves and face shields. My leg was shaking as I tried to hold the brake pedal down in the car line. I was nervous.
I had to talk to three different people before entering. One to make sure I had an appointment, one to take my license and insurance card, and one to hand me paperwork and briefly explain what was about to happen. I was assured they would only swab the lower part of my nose, and they would, in fact, NOT tickle my brain (my words, not theirs).
I inched my car forward to the end of the tent. A kind, young gentleman in full PPE greeted me. “Hello!” he said cheerfully.
“What I need you to do is pull down your mask below your nose. Leave your mouth covered.”
I nervously did what he said.
Then he paused and pulled out the swab.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll be as gentle as I can.”
He then proceeded to swab each of my nostrils. I’m not sure how long he swabbed. Maybe 5 seconds per nostril? It was uncomfortable, but not terrible at all. I would say it was on par with a Pap smear. (Sorry, people with penises. You won’t relate to this analogy.)
“Have a great day!” the kind man said, and I was done.
I took a deep breath through my mask, slathered up with hand sanitizer, and pulled away from the tent.
As I pulled out of the hospital lot and headed towards the highway, I felt the internal shift happen. The pent-up, tightly wound, anticipation anxiety began to melt away, and the relief, the letdown, the sadness crept up.
I felt the tears well in my eyes as I drove.
This is how it always is for me, you know. I hold things in so deeply, so tightly, so strongly. I do what needs to be done to get through the task at hand. But once the immediate challenge is surpassed, the emotional wave comes.
I relaxed the white-knuckled grip I had been using to hold my invisible internal pressure valve closed, and slowly it released. I didn’t break into a full-on sob fest out there on Route 1, though. That would probably have been dangerous, and anyway, that came later. But my tears welled and my nose ran (maybe from my emotional state or maybe from just having had a very long mascara wand scrub out the insides of it).
Why was I crying? It wasn’t that I was really worried I had COVID. I had come down with cold symptoms after returning from a few days at the shore the previous week, and I was starting to feel better already. My doctor was just being extra cautious and responsible to order the test, I (partially) convinced myself. But the little seed of doubt had planted itself snugly in my mind’s garden, and a giant question mark loomed overhead.
It wasn’t that the test was physically difficult. Like I said, think Pap smear. I pushed out two babies, after all – I’ve felt Pain (capital P) before and this wasn’t even close. It was more the emotional toll of the testing than that – the build-up, the surreal setting, and now the waiting for results that would follow.
But, no, it wasn’t really those things.
I think a huge part of my feelings were caused by overwhelming frustration.
It’s just not fair.
I am tired of living in a world where I can’t hug people I love outside of my own four walls.
I am sick of having to avoid places and fear being near others.
I am sad that the first time in over five months that I let go just A LITTLE BIT and stay inside a beach house with a few close family members – while implementing safety precautions and avoiding outside people and public – I (and the rest of my household) got sick.
And I am SO VERY ANGRY that I have to fear that a stupid summer cold could be an illness that is life-threatening to myself, my family, or others.
It’s just not fair.
I’m not sure why I am writing this rambling story for you. I think it is partially for me to process what happened and partially to let you know if you have similar thoughts or feelings you are not the only one.
We are living in a weird, scary time, friends. We are all just doing the best we can to muddle through, and even though it feels that way sometimes –
WE ARE NOT ALONE. Not ever.
My results came in earlier than expected – just over 24 hours from when I was swabbed. I nervously logged into my account after getting the email, and the Patient Portal showed me two beautiful words: “Not Detected”.
My test was negative for COVID-19.
The celebration commenced. ❤️