In case anyone has forgotten we are in the midst of a global pandemic which has led to an international lockdown. One of the main symptoms is a dry, persistent cough. Which I was now experiencing. I got out of bed slightly worried. I couldn’t ignore this right? I’ve always been conscientious about hand hygiene, physical distancing and wearing face masks. Plus I live alone. How could I catch this? Then I remembered back a week earlier where I had met some friends in Temple Bar, where we’d sad drinking beer on a hastily made, outdoor terrace and had fun, laughs and good times. There was a period of time during that evening where our proximity to another group of hardy revellers was perhaps too close. Maybe I’d caught it there? Then I remembered my occasional travels on the tram, where mask-wearing among passengers is intermittent and the company running the tramline relies entirely on passengers’ adherence to social distancing. Maybe I caught it there? Or the cabbages (the people not the vegetables) in the supermarket who wander about bare-faced?
There was no point in fretting. I called my doctor at 9.30am and was told I would receive a call back after 11. At 11.32 just as I was about to launch my weekly operational call with my customer, my phone rang. Giving a hastily concocted excuse about having to go downstairs to collect a DHL package, I excused myself from the call. The nurse on the line asked me about my situation. Yes I had a cough. No – my taste and smell were not affected. Yes I was an insulin-dependent Type-1 diabetic. Bingo! Immediate referral to a test centre for a Covid-19 test. I asked her if I could be referred to a test centre within walking distance, as I had no car. She could not guarantee that, and it would take a week for an ambulance to take me if I needed that. An ambulance? I assured her that I would make my own sweet way to the test. I asked if I was allowed out to the shop to buy food as I live alone. No that was not advised. Yes I could still go out for a walk, but to stay well away from other people. I had a mental image of a town-crier following me, ringing his bell, shouting ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ at the top of his voice. She told me that it might take 24 hours for my appointment to come through by text message, and that I must start my self-isolation immediately.
I returned to the work call, where my customer and colleagues were still joking about couriers with big packages arriving at inopportune moments. I chortled heartily.
At lunchtime I received a text advising me to present myself to the Community Testing Centre at Croke Park Stadium at 3.30pm that day. That was a twenty minute walk away. I placed an hour long imaginary meeting in my work calendar called ‘Receipt to promise metric analysis’ between three and four, to throw the work Feds off my scent. I have no idea what ‘Receipt to promise metric analysis’ actually means but it sounds serious and legitimate.
Upon arrival at the designated test centre – the Handball pitch/ court – at Croke Park stadium I was quite impressed. Croke Park is the headquarters of the G.A.A. (Gaelic Athletic Association) which was formed in 1884 as the governing body for Irish sports. Hurling; camogie and Gaelic football are the sports it covers, I thought. I never knew that handball was an Irish sport. I am still not convinced.
Outside the building were two men in high-viz jackets with a clipboard and pen. They took my name, and crossed it off their list, squirted hand sanitiser on my hands, handed me a personal PPE kit and told me to place a mask over my face and mouth. Following the arrows I presented myself at reception where I was handed an envelope by the receptionist and was led to a nearby testing booth. Inside was a Polish gentleman, dressed head to toe in blue scrubs. I have no idea what he looked like, as his face and hair were fully covered. I blew my nose for him and then he inserted a cotton swab down the very back of my throat. It wasn’t as unpleasant as I’d heard. Then he told me to lean back again and he inserted a swab up my nose to a depth I didn’t believe possible and wriggled it about for a few seconds. It was vastly uncomfortable but didn’t hurt. He told me that I would receive my result within two to three days by text message and to remain in isolation. I followed the arrows out of the building. In total, from entry to exit it had taken approximately five minutes. I was chilled by the sheer number of testing booths. It seemed quiet that day however, and I only saw staff and no other testees.
So the wait for results began. Thank to my squirrel like nature – developed during lockdown – I had supplies in the freezer sufficient for a month. Plus the bookshelf of doom needed tending to. I was all set.
I wouldn’t mind the wait. As anyone who has been for a HIV test will tell you, the wait for results is inevitable. You can’t rush it, and must try not to obsess over it. If I had the Covid then I would be fine.
At 9.30pm last night my phone beeped. The screen flashed. I read the following:
‘The HSE would like to confirm that this test did NOT detect COVID-19’.
So that’s that. I haven’t coughed since Tuesday night either.