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  • Writer's pictureKatie

The one where I try to count how many times I've been swabbed

Raise your hand if you've had that long, painful swab stuck up your nostril at least once. Now raise your hand if you've lost count. That's me. I have totally lost count of how many times I've been tested. It's only been 18 months.... Bear with me.

1. The unexpectedly positive one

March 26, 2020 at the drive-thru testing center at my primary hospital. This is the only one I know by date. And the reason I remember this one by date is because I had to spend about 4-5 hours on the phone on the morning of March 30th talking to the department of health, all my bosses at 3 different hospitals I worked for, my gym, my family, and my husband's family after I received a positive result. The department of health needed the dates I last worked for each hospital, the last day I worked out at the gym, etc. It was a pretty intense phone call this early on in the pandemic. I know for certain I was the first person in my department to get it, maybe the 4th or 5th in my entire hospital system. It was scary. I had been at work the day before this test WITHOUT a mask on because I was not allowed to wear one yet since I hadn't been exposed to a "patient under investigation" and there just weren't enough masks for everyone. I gave my boss permission to share my COVID-19 positive status with my coworkers so that they could all get tested as needed since many of them had been in close quarters with me in those days leading up to my test. Then the typical 2 week quarantine, worrying about my breath killing other people, etc. Anyone who has tested positive probably understands.

FUN FACT: I received my positive test result on my husband's birthday. Happy birthday, here's your COVID-19! Probably the worst present I'll ever give him. Probably.

2. The repeat one (negative)

I was able to return to work for my part time job at my primary hospital after 2 weeks and improvement of symptoms without a test. But the other hospital system I worked for required TWO repeat tests that showed that I was negative before I could return. Again, that was early on and I think the guidance has changed to say you shouldn't re-test if you've been positive in the last 90 days. Anyway, I pulled up to the drive-thru testing center to have this one done. They did this test differently, swabbed my throat instead of my mouth because they said it would be more comfortable? I don't know. It was not consistent with my first test where they tickled my brains.

3. The other repeat one (negative)

Pretty uneventful, same drive-thru as the last test, came back negative and I was able to start working for that hospital again.

4. The one due to exposure (negative)

This one was very unexpected, and very sad. We had a patient on optiflow in one of our step-down units for at least a month. If you're not familiar with optiflow, it is a way to deliver oxygen to a patient and it makes COVID-19 an airborne transmission process, meaning you should have an N-95 mask on at all times in addition to the contact and droplet PPE. This patient tested negative when she was admitted to the hospital but just kept getting weaker and weaker to the point that I wasn't even comfortable doing bed-level exercise with her due to low oxygen saturation. They were attempting to discharge her to a skilled nursing facility and that facility required a repeat COVID-19 test to prove that she's negative. Turns out she somehow contracted COVID-19 while in the hospital. She'd had a few visitors in the time she was a patient and we all wondered if someone brought it in that way. We'll never know. So anyone that had worked with that patient had to go get tested. As far as I know no one came back positive so that was a relief. Unfortunately this patient did not survive for much longer due to her significant oxygen requirements and I was upset to hear of her passing. I have since worked with her brother at this same hospital and he speaks very fondly of her and misses her so much.

5. The asymptomatic possible exposure (negative)

My parents had just finished a week-long vacation to the outer banks and saw my sister while they were in that area. I had a day off of work where I decided to go to the state fair with them on their way home. Spent the whole day with them and had a great time eating deep fried butter, grilled cheese sandwiches, and chocolate milkshakes! So when my dad called me 2 days later to tell me he had a fever, I wasn't taking any chances. Called around to 3 or 4 different locations on this Friday night and finally found someone that could test me right away. I never had any symptoms and my dad felt better the next day. Luckily my test was negative.

6. The cold (negative)

Last but not least, I developed a cold while at work and reported it to the hospital. They asked me to leave work right away and go to our testing center. I had been at home for Labor Day Weekend with my family, including my 92 and 93 year old grandparents, so this really scared me. Again, not taking any chances. I finished my notes as fast as possible and headed to the testing center. They stuck this one way up the nostril and tickled my brains again. This hospital testing center has been the only one to do the test this way consistently. I went home to my husband where I wore a mask all night and we slept in separate bedrooms. He had to stay home with our dog for Labor Day weekend so he didn't have the potential exposures I had, and if I had the virus I wasn't about to give it to him. We were both thrilled to hear the negative result less than 24 hours later!


How many times have you been tested? Any horror stories out there? Let's hear about it!

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