Thursday was my eighth day of doctor-ordered quarantine for symptoms of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, and it came with a shift in my attitude after a second hospital visit for shortness of breath.
Recently, I returned from a week in Paris. When I left, there were 57 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S.; when I returned, there were 936. Shortly after my return, I came down with an elevated temperature, dry cough and mild shortness of breath — all the common signs that suggests a person may want to be tested for the coronavirus, particularly with international travel in high trafficked areas. It took a lot of phone calls, but I was eventually advised to go to the hospital for assessment on whether I could be tested and was met in the parking lot with a mask. Flu and other infections were ruled out and I was sent home and told I may be tested for the virus, but it was uncertain. At that time, my symptoms were what I would describe as mild.
Over the next few days, as my symptoms worsened to include a sore throat, nasty chest cough, vomiting, and overall feeling of impeding doom, I spoke to the hospital several times. I was told I should get a call back about results of the coronavirus, making me believe I was tested. I was told on another call if I hadn’t heard back, that meant negative. When I called back to get guidance on returning to work for when I was no longer sick and symptomatic and the physical test results, I was advised if I had been sent home the first day and not admitted to the hospital, there was zero chance my test was processed.
As you can imagine, I was confused and wasn’t sure if I had even been tested at that point. All the while, I continued to struggle with shortness of breath if I tried to do anything beyond getting out of bed. After speaking with a few helpful friends in the medical field, I was advised I should seek treatment for the breathing regardless, so I went back to the hospital, with a mask and keeping safe distance, for additional treatment.
There, I finally began to get a clearer picture of what was happening. The doctor who treated me explained hospitals are struggling to keep up with testing those who are severely ill and hospitalized, which means they rightfully are getting priority. He did a chest x-ray and additional testing and diagnosed me with acute shortness of breath (layman’s term) and acute viral infection.
He explained that, yes, there is a very good chance I have the coronavirus, but because I was fortunate enough that I could be released with proper treatment for my breathing struggles, I wouldn’t be tested. He said I should continue self-isolation and I didn’t push the testing matter any longer.
To be honest, I still don’t know if I was tested last week. I would hope the medical team that treated me Thursday night would have been able to see that info and the results since I explained the whole ordeal, and would have said shared it with me.
If I was tested, then I am for sure negative or else the health department would have contacted me.
If I wasn’t tested (and there’s good chance I wasn’t), and as it stands from my last visit, I am to assume I likely have it and go about my interactions as if I do. Either way, treatment is the same — home isolation and treatment of symptoms, unless symptoms worsen. I’ve decided I’m ok with not being tested.
Earlier this week, I was frustrated with the testing process. Today, I am not as much.
After talking to the doctor last night and others in the medical field about the lack of testing available, I realized that while having accurate stats is important for later, right now, there are a lot of very sick and vulnerable people that need to be tested more than I need it. It hasn’t been a joy ride. Breathing has been the worst when I try to do anything except lay in bed, but I’m still able to be home and care for myself. The medication has helped.
My takeaway at this point is:
If you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone who’s positive with the coronavirus, call your doctor and stay home, stay home, stay home, until advised to seek treatment.
Thank a medical professional today. It’s not their fault there aren’t enough tests. They aren’t even the ones making the decisions on who gets tested, CDC sets those standards and they change frequently. Health care workers are doing all they can with limited testing kits and materials like gloves, masks, and ventilators.
If you don’t need to be hospitalized and only have mild/moderate symptoms, count your blessings and understand that until testing is more widely available (and we’re hopefully getting there), you may not be tested in all places. Try to be OK with that. People in hospitals likely need it more than you. But of course, always call your doctor to see if you may have something going on to warrant it.
I’m not a doctor or qualified to give advice on this topic, I’ve just been sharing my experience so others will know a bit about what to expect if they think they have the virus. You should always seek a medical opinion on your situation.
It’s OK to be frustrated or anxious. Everyone is. But, if we work together, have patience, be kind, lookout for each other, practice social distancing or isolation, wash our hands frequently, and stay home as much as possible, we’ll get through this.
(Melissa Felkins is a former reporter at Kentucky New Era. She currently lives in Louisville with her cat, Lily, who is surprised a human is now living in her cat house and also threatening eviction if not given more cat treats and space in the bed.)