By Respect Tatenda Chofamba
Anxiety and fear are just, but two of the emotions that are surging through my body as I await my turn to get tested for Covid-19. My mind is a big mess. I am yet to process the fact that I am a contact of a known case, but that right now is not the priority. Memories of all the times I neglected Covid-19 preventative measures flash before my eyes. Thoughts of the probability of a positive result cloud all my mind, filling my ears with a disturbing sound of fear. For a moment, I feel nothing, I feel empty and it feels like the end.
It’s my turn to get the swab exerted into my nasal system. The lab technician explains that he will insert this long thing with a swab at the end into my nostril, until it hits my nasal wall. I want to ask if it will be painful, but the words are caught up in my throat. He looks at me, smiles and reassures me that it will cause slight discomfort but not pain. I do my best to relax all the muscles that are balled up in me. I am tense from head to toe, so I have no idea how to relax the muscles in my nasal system. At this very point I want to be in control, but I have to let go, but how do I let go when my natural reflexes are making me tense?
As if I am watching a thriller, the lab technician takes the swab out of the sealed package and tells me he is going to insert it into my nostril. At first it seems like it’s going to be a walk in the park. So I somehow feel a little less tense. Just as I think I am feeling at ease, I am told to relax. I’m a little perplexed for a very brief portion of time, but still I do my best to relax, whatever that means at this point. I feel a slight nudge in my nasal passage, as the swab hits a point I hardly knew existed, and I feel the swab being pulled out. Before I can feel more, and let the idea of what is going on sink in my mind, the lab technician is saying something over his PPE suit. A small tear is running down my cheek and a slight irritation pinching my nasal wall somewhere.
I want to sit back some more, to allow whatever it is I am feeling to make sense, but I find myself mechanically stand up to allow the next patient to come in for their examination. I have many questions and I feel a sort of numbness of body and soul that I am not familiar with. Was that it? So what do I do next? How do I proceed? All these questions spinning all over my head, but I fail to articulate them. I walk out and am told the results will be out in the next 24 hours.
For the next couple of hours I am not certain about my feelings and the emotions running through me. I want to talk to someone about everything that just went on. I want someone to help me make sense of this experience, but everyone else around me is trying their best to act normal and continue with their day as though all is well.
Calls and texts from friends and family are flooding my phone. I want to reassure them that I am fine, that everything is fine, but something caught in my throat is giving me away. A call from my mother, who is panicking and full of concern, makes my defences crack and tears just start rolling down my cheeks.
What do I tell this woman? Do I just say all is well, or do I tell her I am not sure but I am far from fine? I can’t bring myself to speak to her, so I just mumble a couple of words and hang up.
For the next 24 hours, I am careful to observe any slight pain or change in temperature in my body. I am obsessing over my health. My right nasal passage where I was swabbed, still has some slight discomfort. I am not sure if that’s normal or not, so I begin to call friends in the health fraternity for advice. They put my mind at ease by telling me that it’s just a natural reaction of the body to a foreign object. I secretly pray that’s the case and nothing more.
My winter nights are usually short because I sleep throughout the night, but not tonight. I struggle to find sleep as I begin to count the cost of my life. If I test positive, would this be the end? If it is the end, then what was the worth of my life? If I test negative, how do I keep myself negative? I suddenly have this need to know more about Covid-19. What type of treatment will I undergo if I test positive? What would my family go through, knowing that I am positive?
I look up statistics on recoveries of Covid-19 and I find little solace in the fact that many seem to be recovering. I suddenly realise that there isn’t much information on Covid-19 that gives one a sense of peace and hope when they have been tested. I was hoping for anything that would tell me that a positive Covid-19 result is not a death penalty, but that was nowhere to be found. Testimonies of those that recovered were a little encouraging, but their accounts of the physical and emotional pain was one that left me praying I test negative.
A friend who recovered from Covid-19 gives me a call after she heard that I had been a contact of a known Covid-19 case. If anything, this was the most comforting phone call of my day. It gave me renewed hope for life and good health even if I test positive.
Although Covid-19 is new territory for us all, it is not insurmountable and testing positive is not a death sentence. The best way to beat Covid-19 remains adhering to the recommended preventative measures, like social distancing and wearing a mask. Protect yourself and protect your loved ones.