What's It Like To Get COVID Tested?
Updated: Feb 9, 2021
By Emma Duncan--Eagle Staff Writer
Let's face it, COVID-19 basically cancelled 2020. Millions have been tested, infected, and some even killed by this maniac malady, but many in Franklin County still don’t know what it’s like to go through serious quarantine.
That’s where I come in.
My mom, baby sister Heidi, and I had to quarantine for two weeks after being exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.
“I'd gone over to a friend's house for an outside get together. There were a total of 7 adults there. Everyone stayed outside and maintained their distance, however, none of us were wearing masks,” began my mom, Kelley Aheron, PharmD, BCACP.
“One of the people there started to not feel good later in the evening. I got a call from my friend the next evening that that person got a rapid COVID test, and it came back positive. Even though I was only in the same location as her for 1 hour, I didn’t have my mask on, and couldn’t 100% confirm I was always less than 6 feet away.”
For most, confirming distance isn’t all that important, but for my mom, that decided whether or not she went to work.
“I'm a clinical pharmacist in an internal medicine practice. As part of workplace policy, we have to fill out a daily Boarding Pass at least 2-13 hours before our next shift," she explained.
"We're asked if we have come down with any specific symptoms that could be related to COVID-19, or if we have been around someone who is suspected, being tested for, or positive for COVID. I had to answer yes to the second question, and therefore, failed my Boarding Pass.”
Anyone who “fails” the Boarding Pass is contacted by employee health to better understand what’s going on.
“I reviewed my case with employee health, and it was decided I needed to quarantine for 14 days,” Aheron said. “I would have to complete a COVID test on day 13, with permission to work only being granted if I was negative. Employee health also reviewed the necessary quarantine guidelines.”
Normally, my mom's employer would let employees take off work while in quarantine so that, if they became ill, they could focus on getting better. However, my mom didn’t have that option unless she was already sick.
“There isn’t another 'me' at the clinic," she explained. "The work I have or that is sent to me waits until I return. I have the ability to work from home, so when I had to go on quarantine, I advised my boss that I’d do so."
If it wasn’t for my sister, who couldn’t go to daycare during our quarantine, working and learning from home would've been smooth sailing. But with her home 24/7, weekdays were a little more complicated.
“In order for me to get work done, and Emma be able to complete her schoolwork, we took turns with the baby and really relied on her naps,” Aheron began. “There were times my work would be interrupted because Emma had Zoom classes, or times Emma's work would be interrupted or assisted by Heidi because I had to make a call or get a quick answer back to a doctor.”
This extended our working period to last twice as long.
“I'd find myself working past my normal end of day time in order to get in my full 8 hours of work. It was nice not to have a commute to and from work, however, there began to be very little downtime in the day,” Aheron said. “Between normal work responsibilities, and then home and single-mom responsibilities, it felt like I worked from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed.”
When it came time for my mom to get tested on day 13, I was shocked. Because we were working almost all day, time went by so fast.
“When I got to the testing center on Postal Drive in Roanoke, the line was almost to the main road (419, Electric Ave)! I ended up waiting 2 hours in the line before I was swabbed," she added.
I went with my mom when she got tested to see what it was like. Looking back, I wish I would've come a little more prepared with snacks, drinks, and even a pillow, because as my mom said, the wait was 2 hours! We were both very thankful once it was over, but wished we could have more efficiently used our time.
“I found the wait time to be excessive and ridiculous given this is a major testing location for the area,” a frustrated Aheron explained. “I couldn't imagine if I was symptomatic and having to sit in that line.”
As I mostly played games on my phone and listened to music during those 2 hours, my mom went on to describe the COVID testing process.
“At the testing center, you weave through the line slowly. You are greeted by a security guard, who takes your ID and fills out paperwork regarding your identity and purpose for testing,” she added. “After you’ve been 'checked in,' you wait your turn in line to pull up to the 'testing position.'
A nurse comes out, dressed in full personal protective equipment, and administers the test," Aheron continued. "A swab is inserted deep into both nostrils in order to get an adequate sample. It’s not a pleasant experience.”
Not only is getting tested unpleasant for the test taker, but also for those viewing, aka me. Honestly, I think I was more worried about the test than my mom, who's been tested once before.
“I was first swabbed back in June. My 10 month old became sick after her first week at daycare, and she was so nice to share that with me.”
Speaking of my sister, she, like my mom, has been tested twice (all negative), making me the only person in my household who doesn’t understand this pain. For this I’m remarkably thankful, because as my mom describes below, having something shoved up your nose doesn’t necessarily scream fun.
“The nurse slowly inserted the swab, provided commentary of 'this is where it starts feeling uncomfortable,' rotated the swab, keeping it in place, and then removed it," Aheron explained. "I was ready for a quick second insertion, however, she 'gave me a break' before repeating the slow insertion and pause. I was not a fan of her technique!”
After we left the testing center, my mom began to ponder the "what if I have COVID" question.
“I hadn’t been very close to the girl who was sick. She was also not coughing, sneezing, or experiencing a runny nose where I could have contracted the virus via droplet exposure. I felt like my likelihood of contracting was low, however, this virus is so unpredictable,” she said.
I feel that because of my mom's job, her stress levels were a lot higher than most would have experienced. When her test came back negative, I was overjoyed to get my chill mom back!
“It's an understatement to say I was very happy my test was negative,” Aheron shared. “I was able to go back to work, and so ready to get outside the house again.”
Out of curiosity, I asked my mom how she would have felt if her test came back negative.
“Mentally, it would have been hard, however, I would've done what I needed to do,” she said. “Having to juggle being a single mother of an infant and teen, working a full-time job from home that requires a lot of phone calls, and trying to maintain a household is difficult. I feel what helped most at the end is knowing that this too shall pass and that God was helping to get me to the end.”