Monday 23 March 2020

I was tested for Covid-19!!!

I couldn’t sit up or lay down. 

The pain was easily a 9. Coughing gave it a 15 or some other crazy high number. Worse pain than giving birth to twins anyway. 

During the day it seemed to get worse, I’m not sure why, but we were all getting a little concerned. 
This was me; good with pain. 
Nathan was calmly worried. 
So we called a breathless family meeting and in between coughing hard, choking and gasping for air, we agreed to phone 999. 111 seemed pointless as the second I said I had chest pains they would send an ambulance anyway. 

Not many questions were asked before the operator said they were sending an emergency ambulance even though I said I had an ambulance two weeks ago and they diagnosed pleurisy. Carefully they explained that due to my symptoms the crew would be in protective stuff. Totally fair enough but this wasn’t Covid 19 was it. Two nice ladies dressed in green with aprons, gloves, masks and even eyewear rocked into my bedroom with all the usual machines. ECG stickers were on pretty instantly and I mentioned that I was sure it wasn’t heart-related but rather more something to do with the cough. Sats (oxygen) were typically not bad. They had been very up and down on my machine. Everything else was textbook and they couldn’t hear anything in my lungs. So they were thinking dry pneumonia. 
Scary word. 
Impressive, but scary. 
We discussed going into hospital to get a chest X-ray as this has been going on for four weeks now. So long. Might as well. I need to know if I need treatment. But the NHS is strained. What can we do? The crew seemed to think it was a good idea and left my house to start up the ambulance. Trying to put my coat on was a killer.  The pain was a defo a 9/10. Jasmine helped me with a scarf which had freyed ends which I could fiddle with and keep myself calm. The same theory as a fidget spinner. Hmm. The paramedics started to get me in a mask and stuff before removing their own. Crikey they looked different than I expected now that I could see their whole faces. I was sleepy and a little nauseous. The last massive cough took its toll on me. I felt I was being brave giving the pain a 7/10 at that stage but the paramedic raised her eyebrows and informed me 7/10 is high! 

I wanted to sleep in the ambulance. But they phoned through to the hospital who informed them I need to go into isolation when I get there and be tested for Covid 19. Woah. This sounds massive. Scary. Surreal. Entering ‘side room 1’ I noticed 'covid 19 testing area' on the door. “Ohh look, pure luxury,” the paramedic joked, “that’s Medway for you.” She said lightheartedly. The Medway has been a hero many times for me. 

Instantly I was alone and the door closed behind me as I decided to sit on the hard, red, plastic chair in my sleepy pain induced state. 

Very quickly, another ECG and set of obs were taken. The results were flashed through the window at someone, maybe a nurse, who was writing the results down from the safety of behind the glass. Soon after, I learned there’s a ten minute window for them to get in and out of the room. I felt for these staff, working so hard and actually putting their lives on the line. I wanted to give her an extra warm smile, but that didn’t work from behind my mask, instead I said thank you a few extra times. Actually, here I was, being tested for Covid-19. When we thought it was pleurisy which needed more treatment. Suddenly this apocalyptic feeling felt more real than ever. Even though I still wanted to sleep, I felt it would be a good thing to get tested and head out of here. After lots of texting and a slightly cloak and dagger sympathy post on my Instagram story, the Dr came in to charm and fix me. I answered the questions again about Mexico. 
“20th January,” was when we came home, 
“25th February,” was when the cough started. They wondered how I remembered that. It would have been my brother's birthday if he were alive, and I was away somewhere memorable on that day, with this brand new tickly cough. 
“Two weeks ago,” was when I was diagnosed with pleurisy and the first ambulance came out. And a couple of days after that I was at the out of hours dr being told I don’t have pleurisy but a swollen throat, given steroids and an inhaler. And here we are now. With my 9/10 pain and a clicky rib. 

The Dr informed me my cough sounds wet. 
So not Covid-19. 
And he was mighty pissed off that I was now sitting in a hot zone where patients have tested positive for the virus. He said the paramedics shouldn’t have put me in that risk. He also said the steroids were a baby dose and I need a big dose, plus antibiotics, at a minimum a chest X-ray, diagnosis and to get the heck out of there and home. “I can’t touch your heart or lungs but I can touch your ribs and the pleura is stuck to the ribs. It’s very painful. You need treatment. We have to check what’s in your lungs.”  He was friendly, apologised for rushing and left.

Sitting alone for a good couple of hours, texting my son with thoughts and updates I began to wonder how the heck do I make sure I haven’t picked up this worrying virus? I heard a knock and called out ‘hello’.  “Can you come to the window?” I heard. So I did, and pulled back the grey vertical blinds. The smiling nurse wrote me a note and showed me through the window. “We haven’t forgotten you, we are waiting for an X-ray slot :)” they drew smiley faces on the note. Super cute. I felt so tired, I was sliding lower on my chair when another knock on the door came. “X-ray time my love,” the friendly nurse called out and walked faster than I could towards the X-ray area. I tried not to touch the doors, but kicked out my leg to then waft my way through. This is a week when I’ve heard the term ‘touch-point’ used frequently. 
The term needs no introduction. 

The window where we communicated

Outside of X-ray was an old man sleeping in his bed. A huge white gauze dressing was on his chin and I tried not to stare.

My son, Nathan was in the near by waiting room and he said he would come and sit with me while I get my X-ray done.  Afterall, we don't need to socially distance ourselves as we live together. He had never seen me with a face mask on before, that must have been strange. 

Inside the X-ray room, the staff member was in all the usual PPE stuff and was very sweet with me. I took off my necklace and stood at this metal plate in a position that hurt my ribs. She asked me to hold my breath as she took the image. 
"I'll just check that, take a seat," she said and soon after came out and wished me well in an empathetic manner,  which worried me. What had she seen?

They are ready for the outbreak

"I best get back Nathan," I told my son as i crossed the barrier with the words HOT ZONE COVID-19 DO NOT ENTER on it and began to look for side room 1.  I couldn't find it. I felt I was a risk to others and I felt myself getting stressed and irritable, which was the last thing I wanted when these lovely staff were trying to help us all.  A small man dressed in scrubs saw me looking lost and flustered and asked if he could help, I explained and he got up slowly from his plastic chair and told me to follow him.  I didn't want to be putting other people at risk; why wasn't he walking faster?
"That button," he pointed, "that button," he repeated as he nodded to one of those buttons which will release the door.
"I don't really want to be pushing the button," I said as I made a 'tut' noise with my mouth. 

On the other side of the door were two male paramedics checking in another patient, I looked at them, they looked at me, shrugged and I shrugged too, "I'm mean to be in isolation, room 1, he's taking me here, this isn't right!" I was a little short, and dissapointed in myself. They pointed to a door and as I went through there I saw my team of Dr and nursing staff and they kindly said, "In there love," and pointed to side room 1.
" I didn't really want to infect anyone!" I said grumpily as I allowed the door to close behind me; back to solitary confinement. 

Exhaustion was setting in. Either it was that or the Tramadol was starting to work as I felt sedated. A bed would have been lovely in that room but I felt like a brat with that thought. I fiddled on my phone for another twenty minutes and then a knock on the window alerted me to the Dr who used sign language to tell me he was going to phone me on my mobile. For some strange reason I held my phone up to the window, pointed to it and mouthed, "this one?" and he nodded and gave a thumbs up.

Taking to my seat, the phone rang with unknown number and it was obvious who that was at 3am.
"I don't want to alarm you," he started as my heart sank, "but every time I come in there I cost the NHS in PPE so this is easier. Now, we can see on your X-ray there are changes in your lungs which is a lower respiratory tract infection. So, it's needing two lots of antibiotics and very strong steroids that I can give you. You need to take an inhaler and use it throgh the day to open up the airways. You don't have to wake up to use it but you must use it regularly as your oxygen is quite low.  And then we need plenty of management for the pain.  So I'm going to get you your medicines and then you can go home. Is there someone we can call to pick you up?"
"My son is out in the waiting room, he's been there all night, he's a grown up and he drives,"
"Ok, what's his name? I'll go and talk to him.  But listen please, this is very important that you realise you are very unwell with this pneumonia infection and you are a sitting duck for the big virus and you must self isolate for a period of twelve weeks. Please keep the mask on until you get home and then remove it and throw it away. You must go straight home. Catching anything more will be a worrying time for you," he explained with a wonderful tone, clearly, understandably and with great care.  I felt worried.  What if I now had picked it up? 

I have both pleurisy and pneumonia.  No wonder I have been feeling unwell.  I was going to take every tablet the told me to take, rest, drink water and get rid of this infection, then I can make great use of the time to write the books and sort my house out ready for the renovations.

Surely I will be okay.  I am afraid.

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