“I still have nightmares about taking tests.”
There are some things that we are all supposed to do, certainly those of us in certain age brackets. The government demands some, our family and friends ask for others, and the medical community advises on several as well. It was time for what might be my final colonoscopy. When you reach eighty, and if you are in decent health, this procedure is considered unnecessary. I will be seventy-six next month. Don’t worry. I am not going to write anything about the invasion.
Because we live in a different time, there is a new wrinkle in preparing for the operation. You have to get a COVID-19 test. All of us have watched and read about what it entails, but I thought that it might be useful for you to know how it actually works. This would apply equally to anyone who has to undergo surgery of any kind these days.
On the assumption that you are in the medical provider’s health system, you will be sent a required testing deadline and testing site location. You cannot just show up at any of the stations. It has to be the one that is affiliated with your hospital, as they are the ones who will have your records.
This turned out to be a bit more of an adventure than I expected. The surgeon’s office gave me an address, said that I did not need an appointment, and informed me that it was in Clayton. This is the suburb where I reside, but it is also the name of a street that runs through the city of St. Louis. I had my masks, gloves, sanitizers, and Kleenex ready to go. Since this was going to be a drive-through experience, I had no idea how many patients might be ahead of me.
Even though I know my area quite well, I decided that I should put the information into the navigation system. The trouble started when Navi did not seem to recognize the address. I tried variations on the theme of Clayton, but still, there was nothing to be found. Driving down Clayton Road in Clayton, MO, the building numbers stopped around two thousand before the one I was given. Unless it was in the middle of Interstate 64, the destination did not exist.
During a frenzied call, my wife, Cindy, suggested that she look up the information on the medical center’s online health site. While she was doing that, I eventually found a phone number at the hospital where I would be going on Tuesday. They said that the address was correct, and it was on Clayton Road, just not in Clayton. How many of you think that Kansas City is in Kansas?
Getting the confirmation from Cindy, I did proceed down Clayton Road, all the way to where the hospital is located, only to find out that the street ended there. The actual testing site was supposed to be nearby, but I still could not find it. However, I had been told where the cross-street was, and I knew that one. After a few circles, I located the place. There are not a lot of signs telling you where the tests take place, and not one said anything about COVID testing. Instead it was called “sample screening.” I had visions of an altogether different kind of exam.
Basically, it was located in the parking lot of an annex to the hospital, but about a quarter mile away. It did not appear to be too crowded, and it resembled what you would expect if a carnival was going to go up that evening, with tilt-a-whirl rides and cotton candy. The first place you come to is the identification booth. I put on my mask and gloves and was directed to move forward. A guard, also with these protections in place, came up to the car, wanting to see my identification. But I was not supposed to roll down my window. (Why do electric windows need to be “rolled” down?)
Next, I was asked to lower the window and was handed a plastic envelope with my registration information. It was all glove to glove. After the very strange “Have a good test” declamation, I got in line behind eight other vehicles. It appeared that they could do two cars at the same time, each one taking about five or six minutes. About the same time as at McDonald’s.
When it was my turn, a nurse, wearing not only a mask but also a full facial shield, came over. She wanted the registration information and then handed me another plastic envelope. This one contained some information about the test as well as a couple Kleenex. I tried to explain that I had my own but decided that it was best to use the official tissue of the medical complex.
There is something I never get used to—being recognized. The nurse looked over the information and said, “Are you …” and she started waving her arms as if leading the orchestra. I nodded in the affirmative, and she said, “You are my first celebrity today.” Great. It was only 10:00 in the morning. How many does she get each day?
The first part of the test was to elevate the window, take out the Kleenex, and sneeze into it. Then I would put it back into the plastic envelope. I thought that this was supposed to be given back to the caregiver, but it was just to clear out any particles in the nasal passages. I could keep it as a souvenir of my visit. It will sit on the shelf next to my autographed baseball collection.
The window was now back down for the test itself. My Florence Nightingale said that she was a “gentle swabber.” I decided not to look at the automobile next to mine, as I feared there might be a blood-soaked front seat. Tilting my head back, the Qtip was inserted.
It goes in a bit farther than I expected. There is no pain of any kind, and I did not feel uncomfortable at all. But I worried that I might sneeze again. She started counting but never told me how many seconds would tick off before the procedure was concluded. At ten, the swab came out, was placed in a sort of test tube, and was hustled off to the lab.
I was ready to take off, but there was one more explanation to be given. The result would be known within twenty-four hours. If I did not receive a phone call, that would mean that everything was fine. But if there was a positive result, there might be a call sooner. I could also check the online health portal to look up the info myself. Feeling fine and having taken all the proper precautions these past several months, I was not worried. But you never know.
I realize that I have had a little bit of fun writing about what is a very serious matter. The reason I chose to do it in this manner is to assure all of you that if you get a test, it is really not difficult at all. Everyone was courteous, professional, and friendly. With any luck, you will have the same experience.
If you happen to get a “rough swabber,” make sure that there is a car wash next door to the testing site.