Wednesday, September 30, 2020

COVID-19: Getting Tested

I had a colonoscopy this month. My original appointment was for April, but a few weeks before the gastroenterologist's office called me and said they'd need to postpone. Many doctors at that time stopped performing non-emergency procedures to help flatten the rising curve of COVID-19 cases.

Fast forward to September, and the gastroenterologist office said that before I could come in for my rescheduled appointment I'd need to have a COVID-19 test, with a negative result. The testing office called me separately and scheduled an appointment for a few days before the colonoscopy. "It's at a drive-thru facility. You won't even need to leave your car."

The day of the COVID-19 test, I drove to a medical building in North Cambridge, and pulled into its garage. The "facility" was a folding table and a few rolling storage cabinets by a side door. There were signs that indicated I was in the right place however. A technician signaled to me, and he walked over to my car.

The tech confirmed my identification. He then put on some gloves, pulled out a labeled test tube from his smock, and broke the seal on what looked like a small cotton swab. I had heard that some tests just need to scrape a sample from my mouth, or just the first 1 or 2 centimeters of a nostril. The way he was holding the swab, I thought it was going to be the latter.

"I'm going to insert this into your left nostril, and twist it around for 10 seconds," he told me. "Now, if you could look to your right at those trees in the distance." I did as I was told, and then he proceeded to insert the swab. Suddenly, it seemed to telescope to about 10 inches because I felt it reaching and probing all the way to the back of my left eyeball.

I didn't dare look at the tech. He started counting down from 10, twisting the swab with each number. It was a very uncomfortable process, and I was glad when he pulled the swab out. My nasal passages and left nostril felt irritated when it was all over. It took 3 to 4 hours before my head finally felt normal.

A few days later, I got an email from the testing facility. Negative. A mild relief. I kept thinking that for my next invasive procedure, the colonoscopy, I would be blissfully sedated.

AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias

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