Well, here’s how my first week back in school ended. At the end of the second day back I started to feel unwell, two days is all it took! Two days! Thursday after the first day back with the children, I started having aches and pains, then I started coughing. Then coughing and coughing some more, then the coughing carried on all night and in the morning, there was more coughing. The following morning, I was messaging my friend and I mentioned that I couldn’t stop coughing but I was certain it was a cold. Natasha said to me to speak to people in school about it, even though it’s probably a cold it maybe for the best to take a COVID test as I have one of the main symptoms and coughing all day in a class doesn’t look good in front of the children either. I got to school and saw the Head outside and mentioned to her what my night and morning had been like and she said that I should take a test just to be on the safe side, so off to Cwm I went.
I drove down to the Testing Centre and was stopped by security and told to wind my window down an inch, I told him that I was sent there from school. He told me that I would need to book online before they would be able to do a test for me and that I would have to leave the Test Centre and book. I had to wind my windows back up and turn the car around but the space I was told to turn around in was tiny. At this point I was more nervous about knocking over all the cones rather than taking the test. Having turned the car around without killing any cones, I went online and booked a test. Having answered a few questions about where I worked and what was wrong with me (I know what you are thinking, telling them what is wrong with me must have taken a long time but they only needed to know about what was wrong COVID related) I was told there was an appointment available for me in 10 minutes.
Driving back the few hundred yards back to the Test Centre my anxiety started to go through the roof. I got back to the same security guard I had spoken to 15 minutes earlier, showed him my phone with the appointment QR Code, he told me to drive down to the bottom of the site. When you get there two people stepped out and placed a cone in from of my car, the man asked me to hold my phone to the window and scanned my QR Code. He showed me his phone and on his screen was all my details, through his mask he asked were they all correct. I nodded and he pointed to the lady that was in front of my car and she held up a sign with an arrow pointing to the right, after she removed the cone I drove around and another lady was holding up a sign with LANE 2 written on it. In front of me was four portacabins each with a number at the front, I drove to lane 2 and waited. By this point my anxiety was making my stomach do somersaults and with all the coughing it wasn’t a nice feeling. I stared straight ahead to try and calm myself and take deep breaths, I got so into the calmness that I didn’t notice the man walking around my car until he banged on my window making me jump as much as my stomach was. He held up a sign which said ‘Phone this number’, I phoned and could hear ringing in the distance wondering what was going on I looked at the man he reached in his pocket and answered his phone. I took me a few seconds to realise that I had just called him, during this time he had disappeared from in front of me and started to ask questions. ‘Do you have hand sanitiser?’ ‘Do you have tissues?’ after answering ‘no’ and ‘yes’ he told me to lower my passenger window a little and as I lowered it a grey envelope flew through the window and landed on the passenger seat, I was then told to close the window and drive off. Pretending to myself that I had just received my spying mission after a clandestine meeting (but in reality, it probably looked like a dodgy drug deal in a McDonalds car park) I drove off to be guided into what was like a pit line made out of cones! Yes, more cones!
This time a lady walked up to my side of the car and held a sign with another number to call, she told me to open the envelope and read the instructions. Number one was to sanitise my hands, two to make sure I had everything on the check list, three to blow my nose, four ‘look inside your mouth, and find your tonsils’, number five… at this point I went back to number four! Why do I need to find my tonsils I thought this was swab the inside of your cheek? Looking at the next page I could see a diagram of someone rubbing the swab on their tonsils, just looking at the drawing made me feel like I was going to be sick. Trying to calm myself I thought it would be better if I read on but looking at number seven and seeing the words ‘into nostril until you feel resistance’ didn’t help at all. That was it, the butterflies inside me was using my stomach and a trampoline, my hands started shaking more than they normally would. As you can imagine by this point, I was feeling sick, shaking and ready to go home. When this kicks in all rationale goes out the window and being in a car when you are unable to open said windows doesn’t help at all. I was doing my best not to have a panic attack.
After a few deep breaths I went back to number 5, ‘open the package and gently take out the swab.’ No problem, easy to follow. The package opened easily enough; I pulled the swab out. Now anyone who knows me would never hand me anything that is delicate or that shouldn’t touch anything else with the way my hands shake even at the best of times. Well, two seconds and one twitch later the swab was on the passenger floor. Luckily the lady who I had spoken to was walking past and I got her attention to explain, I’m guessing it happens a lot because she didn’t roll her eyes and sigh when I told her and she give me a new swab. Another sign was held up in front of me, this time it was telling me to put my hazard lights on my test was complete.
So, having calmed myself enough to get the shaking down to a minimum, I went for it. First attempt didn’t go to well as soon as it touched my tonsil, I thought I was going to be sick. It was the same feeling as sticking your fingers down your throat. Second attempt was successful even though all the while I was making noises like I was going to be sick. The swab came straight out of my mouth and straight up my nose (yes, you had to use the same one) as per instructions I rotated it soon as I felt resistance, this made me cough more, my eyes water and my head go foggy. I managed to put the swab in the vial and snap the off the end without any major incident and put my hazard lights on and waited.
This round of signs told me to phone the number again and was told to hold the bag with the vial up to the window to show her, then to place that bag into a bio-hazard bag and seal tightly and to drive around the corner. Within 50 yards was more people with more cones and signs. ‘I will place a bin by your down’ thumbs up, then she walked back to the front of the car ‘open your window a little and drop the bag into the bin’ At this point I started to doubt the accuracy of my throw, with the swab incident I doubted that I would have been able to walk to the bin and place it in, but I went for it and it landed in the bin and with a little fist pump that I hope no one saw. The final sign said ‘close window’ and the cones were removed, I drove off but had to pull over in a layby because of the fogginess (I could taste the swab and feel it up my nose for a few hours and the following morning.)
And so the waiting begins the leaflet said 24 hours for the results. Problem is every minute that as passed since arriving at the test centre my confidence that it is ‘just a cold’ as faded. 99% certain is now around the 90% mark and Dropping fast. So, I found a way to pass the time away as I wasn’t allowed back to school; sleep! After coughing so much that my stomach hurt, I went to lay down in bed for a little while.
6 hours later I woke up, went to make cup of coffee. At least 17 hours left before I find out what the verdict is, I’m hovering around the 75% mark and dropping fast. After staying awake long enough to have something to eat and to drop my confidence level to around 60%, I wasn’t sure how I would get through those hours.
To cope with this and the fact that I was now coughing like an old man who smoked 60 cigarettes a day since they were 12. I decided the best thing to do was to go back to bed, which killed another few hours. Yes, I went to bed and slept twice in one day! My body was working at a student on Monday level but it was what I needed as I was now 50/50 and really start to worry.
After a hour or so, I got up in time to put the news on to see a report on the increase in covid cases in Wales!!!By the time I went back to bed (the time you should go to bed, not lunch time) I was laying there worrying about who I could have giving it to, I had spent the afternoon before helping Lizzie in her classroom and was feeling so bad she could have caught it because of me. Only a few hours ago I was almost certain it was just a cold, now I was worried that I could have made my friend ill.
At this point I must have worried myself to sleep because the next thing I knew I was awaken by the sound of my phone pinging. I looked at the clock and it was 6am, not realising there was a 6am on a Saturday I picked up my phone in a daze and noticed a text notification from the NHS and all you could see on the preview was ‘NHS COVID-19 Notification Dear Stephen Baker’ Taking a deep breath I opened the the text ‘Your Coronavirus test result is negative’ it took me a second to realise that negative means a good thing when it comes to medical test. Big sigh of relief, followed by a bigger effort not to text everyone to tell them my good news at 6am!