By Cora Dunnwald, News Crew Member
June 21, sometime in the afternoon, I was notified that I had been exposed to COVID-19. I immediately felt that warm sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew that my next step would be to get tested.
I had heard the horror stories. I had even heard it being compared to getting your brain picked. Either way you sliced it, the test didn’t sound fun. Then there was the idea that I had a chance at testing positive. I started making a list in my head of all the people I had been around. It was a pretty long list seeing as my summer job was a restaurant.
Sure COVID-19 has disrupted almost every other facet of my life, as well as many other student’s, but I honestly never thought I’d have to get tested. I had that “untouchable” feeling we all get sometimes. The good old, “that could never happen to me.”
To be completely honest, I had no idea what to do. Who do I tell first? I was at work when I was given the news, so do I leave then and there? I felt fine, but you never really know. Where do I sign up to get tested? Was it free? Turns out there is a website for that. Everything was outlined for me on the testiowa website. I recommend giving it a visit if you think you might need tested.
I was insanely nervous; who wouldn’t be? The virus had created a culture of panic along with it. Some sage advice my father gave me were the simple words, “There is nothing you can do about it now.” It was calming in a way. I knew then, that I just had to ride the wave. I was going to have to deal with it either way.
The whole process of getting tested felt very top secret. First you were sent a secure email with a QR code attached. The email had the location and time you are supposed to appear for your test. There were strict instructions on what type of vehicle to drive and who can be in the car. Spoiler, only those getting tested can be in the car.
When I arrived, there were two to three National Guard members directing the traffic into the testing facility. I was asked to show my ID and the QR code to verify I was who I said I was. They wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking the test in place of someone else.
The test was set up as a drive through, only one car allowed in the testing tent at a time. The administers tried to keep a six feet distance if they weren’t in full personal protection gear. There were actually a large handful of people now wearing the full gear, which I thought was weird. The only people wearing full gowns were those handling the test materials and those administering the test.
As I coasted into the tent, one of the attendees asked me to keep my window closed. From inside my car I held up my QR code for the second time. After it was scanned, I was given the green light to roll down my window.
The first thing they had me do was blow my nose. I was actually really confused by this; for some reason, it had never crossed my mind that they would have me blow my nose of all things. After that, they brought out the swabs. Dear lord, the swabs. I could have sworn they were as long as an unsharpened pencil. I had no idea how it would fit, but I had to trust the process.
“We are doing a deep nasal swab on both sides today, results in 72 hours by text or email, okay?” the attendant said. “Are you ready?” she asked. In truth, I wasn’t, but there was nothing I could do now. She had me tilt my head up and turn towards her.
As the swab went in, my eyes immediately started watering. Instinctively, I pulled back. I mean, there’s a long object being shoved into your nasal cavities, you’re going to be uncomfortable. It is just as bad as everyone says it is. The best way I can describe it is your worst allergy congestion mixed with a dry nose. A weird and highly painful sensation; it even stung as she spun it around to get a full sample.
I had totally forgotten that I had a whole other nostril left after she was done with the first. I wasn’t excited. I was basically crying at this point, and now my nose was running. Thankfully the swabs only last up to 7 seconds. I honestly don’t think I could have done it for any longer.
After my test was done, the attendee sealed away the swabs and reminded me my results would be available in 72 hours. She asked me to roll up my window and exit the center. I honestly felt worse after the test than I did before. Every time I took a deep breath in, my nose whistled. My family had fun commenting on that at dinner.
Roughly 60 hours later I was sent an email telling me my results were in. The email had a secure link to a personalized Patient Portal with my results. Thankfully, I tested negative for COVID-19. My only hope now, is that I never have to do that test again.