With testing dysfunction and major delays in testing, many more Arizonans may be exposed to coronavirus.
“Any word yet?” This is the question friends and family ask me every day, sometimes more than once. It’s been eight days since I went to a Banner Hospital Emergency Room in Mesa for the second time to get tested for COVID-19, and have yet to get a call – from whom, I have no idea.
Prior to this, I went another seven days believing I had pneumonia because that’s what hospital staff told me. On March 9, I went in for testing after experiencing symptoms upon my return from an area with community spread coronavirus.
After some work and several hours of waiting, I finally got a COVID-19 test on March 16 and was told I’d have a response in three days; they told me the ER staff would call me with results. When I didn’t get a call on day three, I called the hospital and was advised it would actually take 7-10 days and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be calling me.
It’s now day eight with no call, no idea who is calling because of conflicting information, and major frustration with our dysfunctional COVID-19 testing.
How It All Started
At the beginning of March, I attended a business retreat in Washington D.C. Our federal and local officials had not yet recommended curbing domestic travel.
While there for three days, I took an Amtrak, a subway, several Ubers, and went with my coworkers to restaurants. On my return trip home to Arizona, I sat by passengers with coughs, but tried not to overthink things.
About two days after my trip, however, body aches, stomach ache, headaches, and fatigue set in. I worried, especially after learning COVID-19 community spread hit the D.C. area I had traveled to, so I decided to get tested.
Because I have had problems finding a good primary healthcare provider after moving back home to Arizona a few years ago, I had stopped looking. This put me in a bind because I had no one to call. Instead, I attempted to schedule an appointment at an urgent care near my house and called in advance to explain my situation.
“I’m going to have to refer you to the ER because we can’t help you with that here,” the receptionist told me when I called.
So I went to the hospital. When I told staff why I was there, the attendant handed me a medical mask and took my information. During my visit, the medical staff kindly asked questions and checked on me often. I had an X-Ray of my chest completed, and a nurse tested me for the flu.
I automatically thought they would test me for coronavirus, but when I spoke with the doctor, he told me that because I hadn’t traveled internationally and had no contact with an infected person, he didn’t believe I had the virus and concluded I had walking pneumonia.
I was so worried about coronavirus at the time that I was anxious to hear another diagnosis. Having been around so many people, I didn’t want to imagine what that would mean should I have it. Thus, after more than $700 out of pocket with insurance, I took what the doctor said and went with it. When I told my family I had pneumonia, their bodies also relaxed with relief and life resumed.
The only problem: I’ve never had pneumonia so I have nothing to compare it to.
As the week progressed and the World Health Organization termed COVID-19 a pandemic, Copper Courier and Courier Newsroom began to uncover issues with testing and a lack of resources, which in turn filled my mind with doubt. I advised my kids to stay away from our families, especially those with underlying health conditions; but by then, we had already been around family, friends, the general public, and coworkers.
Second Trip To The Hospital Troubling
In addition to issues with testing, my symptoms worsened, so I decided I was going to fight for a test no matter what. On the 16th, I tried calling a teledoctor, only to have a crazy wait. I then called Banner, where a staff member referred me to the nurse’s health line. I had to leave a message.
Hours passed, and finally, by the end of the day, I spoke with a very nice nurse who documented my symptoms and referred me back to the same ER where I went the week before.
When I returned, healthcare staff found my oxygen level low, and after further determination, I learned I was finally being tested.
I first underwent another chest X-Ray. Then, a tech led me to an area where she drew my blood and asked questions about my symptoms while filling out a form. She conducted the coronavirus test, which included swabbing deep inside both nostrils.
She said it would take three days to get results, and added a bit sarcastically that “everyone wanted a test.”
With the test complete, I was taken to a small room to wait for a breathing treatment. When a healthcare worker came in over an hour later to give me one, I could tell she was wary even though she tried to appear otherwise. She kept her distance in her protective gear and left quickly after completing her task.
Another hour and a half passed when a doctor and nurse came in with protective gear. The doctor said she was sending in a test and I would get results in three days. She also said she’d be sending me home since I have a “low chance for mortality,” and advised me to go under quarantine for 14 days, as well as my family.
After the doctor left, the nurse then proceeded to take another test. When I told her the other tech had taken one and filled out the form, she looked a little confused and said it had to be done in both nostrils (it had been but I just let it go).
The nurse had never filled out the CDC form before, so it took some time. While in the room, the nurse kept answering the hospital internal communications, which patients could hear. The nurse, when answering her calls, kept referring to me as that patient “in the closet.” When I commented on it, she said the room was actually a supply room previously.
Although I was happy to be away from other patients because I don’t want to add to the spread, hearing I was placed in a room called “the closet” for testing felt pretty degrading – like I didn’t matter.
And after more than $300 later, despite me mentioning my insurance would fully cover COVID-19, I left scared, disheartened, and unsure what would happen next.
It’s Now Day Eight With No Call
As of today, my family and loved ones are still waiting impatiently for answers. We realize there is currently no cure, but knowing is important. Making preparations if we get sick and take a turn for the worse is important. Knowing if my family and loved ones will be tested and/or treated is important. Knowing if we will have a bed or respirator if symptoms take a turn for the worse is important.
In other words, we’re real people with real fears and loved ones – not just a pending number on a screen.
I am currently in quarantine with my husband, two adult kids, three grandkids (ages 10 & 8), and my dog. Every day as I struggle with my symptoms, especially shortness of breath, headaches, and pain in my lung area, I continue to pray it’s just a really funky sinus infection or something that can be cured with an antibiotic.
However, the doctor prescribed one with my initial diagnosis, and I still feel the same after completing it. Not to mention, my grandson now has mild symptoms.
I could be angry at the dysfunction of the hospital staff and this entire experience. Under normal circumstances, I would be; however, this pandemic is like nothing we’ve ever experienced, and I’ve lived through a few. I’m more mad at the downplay of this virus and how things would be different if our government would have made this less about politics and more about a pandemic from the start.
This virus don’t care about right or left.
And with my family and loved ones’ health on the line, excuse my language, but it’s bullshit my phone remains silent on day eight.
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