Kitimat General Hospital. (Black press photo)

‘It’s going to be very painful’: my experience getting tested for COVID-19

While it’s definitely not a comfortable experience, it’s better than being put on a ventilator

Last Saturday, I was tested for COVID-19.

The weekend before, I had got a bad headache in the afternoon. All the pain medications in the world weren’t fully helping and it stayed present on a more mild level for the rest of the week. Wednesday, my nose started getting a little stuffy and by Friday, I woke up with a dry throat and a cough.

Shoot, I thought to myself, I should probably book a test.

I did the online B.C. self-assessment and it gave me the number to call. I was on hold for about half an hour with Northern Health, which honestly was a lot shorter of a wait time than I was expecting, especially given the recent outbreak on Haida Gwaii.

From there, I spoke to a nurse, telling her my symptoms and getting all my information into the system. She told me she would send my information to the Kitimat General Hospital (KGH), and to stay home and isolate, and that they would call me with an appointment time in the next 24 hours.

I stayed huddled in my room, not feeling horrible but just feeling like I had a cold. Under 12 hours later, a nurse at KGH gave me a call and asked if I could come in the next day (Saturday) in the morning. Faster than I expected to get an appointment, which was nice.

She reminded me to keep myself isolated and told me what to do once I got to the hospital. Thankfully, you don’t have to prep anything in advance, just make sure you’re at the spot they tell you at the time of your appointment.

In Kitimat, you pull up to the Emergency entrance of KGH and stay in your car. You call the number they’ve given you and a nurse comes out to you. Makes sense, keeping possibly-COVID-positive people as isolated as possible.

I got to the proper spot at KGH on Saturday morning and called the number. After a few minutes, a nurse came out and checked my temperature, asked what my symptoms were, then said she’d be right back out with the swab.

She came back out with a long cotton swab in its sealed packaging and began opening it.

“Have you ever seen someone get a test before?” she asked me. I shook my head, no. I’d heard of people’s experiences getting them and knew it wasn’t a very pleasant experience, but hadn’t actually seen it done.

“Okay, well it’s going to be very painful,” she started.

Wait, excuse me? Was that supposed to be some reverse psychology or was she just a ‘take no prisoners’ kind of person? If I wasn’t nervous before that, I definitely was now. But you could tell by how calm and matter-of-fact she was that she was experienced and had definitely been doing these tests for a while. If her words didn’t calm me, her mannerisms definitely helped.

“I’m going to take the swab and stick it right down your nose,” she continued. “Then, I’m going to count to five, out loud, then take it out. Okay?”

I nodded, unsure of how exactly to respond.

“Alright, so I’m going to get you to look forward and tilt your head up slightly,” she said, as I tilted my chin up. “Yup, now just look forward, just like you’re driving. Okay good, here we go.”

I saw the swab come in and next thing I knew, I could feel it going down my nose.

The first second or two wasn’t bad at all. Then she kept going and that’s when it started to hurt a bit.

I think she was using the reverse psychology method, because, in my opinion, it definitely wasn’t “very painful” like she had said it would be, thankfully.

To describe it, it felt kind of like a strong pinch, and she did have to go very far in. She counted to five, out loud, and moved the swab around, which was the part that really stung. Then, she pulled it out and it was done.

My eyes watered a bit and it felt like my nose was running for about 10 minutes afterwards, but overall it was not the absolutely horrible experience people had said it was. Mildly stingy, and definitely not the most comfortable or pleasant sensation, but definitely more pleasant than being put on a ventilator and having trouble breathing.

After a few days of anxiously waiting, the results thankfully came back negative. And while it was a fairly nerve-racking and stressful process, I’m glad I did it to help protect myself, my friends and neighbours, and the Kitimat community.I hope others are able to do the same as we move through this together.

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