Covid - Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three

The New Normal

I started off having little to no opinion of our Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. I wasn’t living in Ireland when he came to power. The last time I was aware of the two big parties that dominate our political landscape was back in the 1980s when Charlie Haughey, the leader of Fianna Fail, three time Premier, one time gun runner, and long time philanderer, kissed my infant cheek at some meet-n-greet on the sidewalk! Who let that happen? Ew, where was the social distancing then?! 

I also have a vague (possibly manufactured) memory of walking past the opposition leader, the Fine Gael party planner, Charlie’s ‘frenemie’, Garret Fitzgerald, as he pushed his wife in her wheelchair through the Swan Centre in Rathmines. As far as I recall, nobody kissed anyone during that encounter!

Back to Leo, the man is the personification of calmness, he appears to have no nervous ticks AT ALL. I’m assuming his blood pressure runs on the low side (you might wanna get that checked). I like him, he’s different, he’s half Irish, half Indian, he’s gay, he used to be a doctor, he’s dating a doctor, he’s rockin out an awesome haircut at the moment, looking sharp. He’s modern, he’s relatable, and fair play to him, he’s picked up his stethoscope and is getting back in the game to help fight Covid.

I have no idea if I agree with his political sensibilities, maybe I’m fundamentally opposed to his approach on a million things, who knows?! I do know I’m not looking for a political genius right now. I’m not looking for a wised up whizz kid or a well seasoned politico pro. I’m looking for a calm steady-as-she-goes leader, I want measures taken, I want reassurance, I want an ole touch of a doctor’s professional bedside manner, a virtual “There, there, it will be alright, now get your act together and do as I say”.

I feel for the man, he is passing out one of the most confusing messages in history and by God he’s doing it with reassurance and style… “We’re apart, together”, “United, alone”, “Cocoon into a butterfly” (maybe the last one’s made up).

Are there hiccups? Sure. Is testing one of them? Yes, it is. I appreciate everyone is doing their damndest and stutters in the supply chain are part of the process.

Have I been tested? I have. Will I keep asking questions in this blog post? Probably

Here is my testing story....

Deserted Docklands

I had a chest infection in Dec, the flu in Jan, so come Feb/March I was due a little somethin-somethin. So 6 weeks after open heart surgery, Wuhan flu (as we called it then) had started to spiral out of China. We watched on the news as South Korea took a hit, then Italy took to it’s sick bed. France, England, then Ireland, sure enough, reports started coming in. Then, of course, I develop a cough, sore throat, exhaustion. But I was missing a vital ingredient...a fever. I was a breezy 37 degrees, don’t mind if I do, cool customer.

Forget about the virus pandemic, the testing pandemic had gripped Ireland at this point. The WHO (or was it The Rolling Stones) had said ‘Test, Test, Test’. I completely agree testing is vital but when there is a finite supply of tests let's use our heads. My GP was correctly following the premise that you needed to meet some basic criteria before being tested, my lack of fever was ruling me out.

However, then I realized my daily post-surgery tablet regimen included paracetamol for pain which, as we all know, dun-dun-duuun, masks a fever. Had I been running a temp and not been aware?

Feck it, I had underlyings (my dodgy heart, numerous cancers, etc)... let’s do it! A request was submitted for me to be tested as urgent. (If I got Covid, myself and Boris Johnson would have to go ventilator splitzies in the ICU).

A week went by, not a dickie bird from the HSE about the test. I knew others waiting too. We would ping each other tentatively, ‘Any word?’ Who would be first to unwrap the chocolate bar and get the golden ticket? A whole week later, and symptoms almost entirely gone (and many chocolate bars eaten), I was called for a test with the Naval Service. Rendezvous at the Docklands on Sir John Rogerson's Quay, over and out!

It was straight out of a movie!

Army tents are set up on the quays beside the Navy ship... You mask up (I brought my own). All the dudes are in military fatigues.... They nod and I'm brought into the first tent... The Navy guy looks like a teenager (bless), he puts a nervously shaking hand up for me to stop 2 meters away from him... He's got the medical screen mask on (they all do)... Sprays something into my hands, takes my details, and then I'm brought into the next area where I wait -alone... Finally, I'm brought into the last tent which is buzzing with the medics... Four of them swarm me, check all my details, ask how I am... it's an emergency testing center so they ask if I am a healthcare worker, alas no (I'm mortified), they ask if I have underlyings and I tell them about my recent heart operation. The Sr Dr says "if you don't mind me saying you’re looking amazing"...Hello Sailor!

I take my mask off, I'm asked to blow my nose, more hand sanitizing, then the swabs... They said if I’m positive I will be notified personally within 24 hours, if I’m negative I will be texted in 24-72 hours... I thanked them. Masked up! And headed out the back of the tent onto the empty quays.

My strangest Tuesday in history!

A week later I get a call at 7.30am from a random mobile, he confirms my name. I thought here we go, it’s the HSE, I'm riddled with Covid 19. Then he says "I'm just ringing to let you know…” (big gulp) “I have an Amazon delivery for you"...ah jaysus, me heart!

Another week goes by, at this point my old symptoms are back and new ones added in, killer headaches, sore throat, aches and pains, extreme fatigue, chills, always cold, so very very cold, chest pains, weakness, that kind of craic. It’s hard to tell what’s normal or not when you’re recovering from heart surgery and bouts of anemia.

Bing bong, a text! (my phone doesn’t go ‘bing bong’ for texts that would be weird). Result in - Negative! Yay!

So 2 weeks after I did the test, 3 weeks after the doctor ordered it, 4 weeks after falling sick, I am Covid free...for now. My friends who had similar symptoms all tested negative too. All convinced they had a virus of some sort. Does Covid ebb and flow as some reports suggest? can you test negative during an ebb and miss a flow? Is there another virus doing the rounds? Are there two strains of Covid the testing can miss? Or are we run down, seasonally wiped out, immune systems struggling with the constant need to be in high alert?

Perhaps time will tell when we all have to get antibody tests and carry ‘immunity passports’, will some be able to pass freely, and some not? the clean, the unclean….echos of a scary past.

I jest and joke but obviously I am extremely lucky and grateful to have tested negative for Covid 19. It can hit anyone at any time and if it hits you, you’ve got to promise me you’re going to hit it back, I’m talking gloves off, knuckle dusters on. Give.It.Hell!

In my next post I’m going to talk about hospitals and why we shouldn’t avoid them, especially now. Get ready to be diagnosed with a bad case of FOMO!

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  1. Great account of this weird moment in time. Together, apart!

    1. 100,000 tests a week is the new plan. Good luck with that!


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