Isolation: Calgary family awaits next steps in coronavirus testing

Calgary family of four in limbo awaiting word from Alberta Health Services on swab for coronavirus

Sketch of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) from a World Health Organization video. YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT

Editor’s note: This is an account told to us by Nicole, a mom of two. Her husband works in IT.

We held Nicole’s last name out because of her fear of the stigma around her situation. Her family is awaiting testing on symptoms that could be consistent with coronavirus.

The beginning

We returned from an international trip on February 28, during an atmosphere of “if you’ve been travelling, watch for symptoms.”

Six days later, one of our children had a fever and stayed home from school as a precaution, while watching very carefully for signs of a cough. Nothing.

So, he went back to school the next day. Sunday night he started vomiting and it has continued intermittently since. Low-grade fever, no respiratory symptoms. According to all the reputable sources – AHS, CDC, WHO – it’s not COVID, right?

Then we find out one of the confirmed cases travelled from the same place as us, right around the same time (but the exact dates are not being released due to privacy). And 13 days after our return, our child has a runny nose in addition to the low-grade fever and vomiting.

The CDC says “Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported.”

Someone from AHS will call us in 24-48 hours to arrange swabs, self-isolate in the meantime.

We make the call to Health Link, fully expecting to be told it’s unrelated.

It took about 30 min of redialing just to get a line through to 811. Then was on hold for almost 2 hours.

But based on our travel dates, the timeframe, and the runny nose we are slated for testing. Someone from AHS will call us in 24-48 hours to arrange swabs, self-isolate in the meantime.

Day 1

One child has been at home sick for eight days, except for the two days he did go based on the time of his last episode of fever or vomiting. CBE’s policy is if your child experiences these symptoms within the last 24 hours, keep them home. Today is no different for him. YouTube and Roblox, uninterrupted. He’s in heaven.

Our other child is in middle school and is more affected by the inability to socialize with friends. She’s relying on TikTok and video chatting with friends to maintain her sanity.

Fighting has started (or I should say continued, just like always). I’ve had to explain this is going to be a long haul and they need to take turns and compromise for all of us to stay sane.

My husband is working from home. We are very fortunate that this ability existed long before COVID-19 surfaced and that his employer encourages their staff to telecommute during adverse weather or emergency situations.

His day consists of a remote meeting interrupted by letting the dog out, a desperate plea for lunch from the kids before his next meeting starts, a few phone calls, and more minor interruptions from children or the dog. He doesn’t stop for lunch.

For myself, there’s not much difference between any other day. I mean, I’m glued to my phone trying to ensure I don’t miss the call for our testing.

I’m laughing at COVID-19 memes on Facebook. I’ve checked in with my grandma, grateful to hear signage has been posted at the entrance to their building turning away visitors. I’m disappointed that I want to be out helping other affected people and I can’t now.

We did this to support our local businesses, especially Chinese food restaurants who are facing the unintended racial profiling of this virus.’

I know we likely do NOT have COVID-19, but we’re also responsible for making sure no one catches it from us if we do.

DINNER: We ordered Chinese food for dinner tonight, by pre-paying and requesting that the driver just leave it outside our door. We did this to support our local businesses, especially Chinese food restaurants who are facing the unintended racial profiling of this virus.

I feel like we owe the driver an apology though, because this may have appeared like we were avoiding catching germs from them, when it was the exact opposite.

Day 2

We still haven’t heard from AHS to schedule our testing. I don’t know if they will test all of us.

We don’t even know if all of us were supposed to isolate. The instructions from Health Link were for our son to not leave the house.

He has not shown any symptoms since Thursday night when I called.

No fever, no vomiting, no runny nose. I feel like we are all fine and do not have COVID, and that testing us is a waste of AHS’ time and resources.

UPDATE: 2:30 p.m Saturday

Just got the call from AHS. Only my son is being tested. If anyone else in the house needs to be, call 811 to get the referral in.

We’re directed to go to the (location removed) between 8 and 9:30pm. A security guard will meet us at the door, provide masks and hand sanitizer and direct us where to go.

The call came 36 hours after my call to 811.

The coronavirus testing

At the Assessment Centre there are two security guards at the doors making everyone use disinfectant (properly) and put masks on.

You go into the clinic and find the back of the 20-person or so lineup.

A volunteer comes to get your healthcare card, then comes back with a patient information kit with the details of your 811 call and referral info.

My son’s package had the correct first page but the rest of the pages belonged to someone else.

They seemed very confused by this but will figure out what happened later and took the pages back that aren’t ours.

You take your package to the desk to check-in and verify contact info and demographics. Then have a seat to wait for a nurse to call you in.

The volunteer is gloved, masked and face masked. During lulls he was wiping everything down chairs and touch points with healthcare-grade sanitization wipes.

The ladies at the desk wore the same personal protection equipment. The nurses doing swabs were fully gowned on top of the PPE.

You could still see the sanitizer after the last patient drying on the chairs and table in the room we were taken to. The nurse verified our demographics, and asked about our travel dates and symptoms, then swabbed my son’s nose.

And we were done. Start to finish was about 40 minutes. We will get the results in 2-4 days, and must continue isolation until then.

A nurse did come around asking patients if they’d be willing to go through the drive-through testing area at the Assessment Centre.

We were not asked, and I’m not sure what criteria determined who went where.

But I’m glad to know the drive-through was there, as hopefully that’s the next evolution of testing.

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