A Privileged Whinge About Life in the Time of COVID19

I've been having trouble with asthma. When I was younger, I was on preventative inhalers, but I stopped about fifteen years ago and haven't needed more than the occasional puff of Ventolin since then. But over the past several months my asthma has been getting progressively worse, the last two weeks especially. I've been walking around the house feeling like I've got a too-tight ace bandage around my chest preventing me from taking a full breath, and a constant pathetic-sounding asthma cough to go with it.


So I got an appointment with my GP so I could talk to her about setting up an asthma action plan and getting back on preventative inhalers. My appointment was this morning. I washed my hands, strapped on a mask, and set off.


And that's when the fun started.


Because I presented with my pathetic-sounding asthma cough, the GP refused to examine me. She said she couldn't evaluate me at the clinic and I'd have to go to Emergency at the local hospital where they've got a COVID19 testing center set up. So off I went, having a mini freak-out in the car on the way. (Don't worry, I wasn't driving so I was free to stare blankly at my phone screen while all my cognitive functions froze up for a few minutes.)


At Emergency the triage nurse checked my oxygen saturation levels (they were fine), listened to my breathing (no lung crackling), and quizzed me on my symptoms (no fevers). She said I was asymptomatic for COVID, but just to be safe they would go ahead and swab me anyway and then send in a doctor to address the asthma problem. So I sat in the waiting room trying to read (and not think about what kind of germs my fellow waitees and I were passing around) while I waited for a spot to open up in the testing center. The book I took with me is a fictionalized account of the life of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third wife. I was, coincidentally, at the part where Jane is sent home from Court after an epidemic of sweating sickness breaks out in the capitol. Haaaaaaaaaah. . . . .


My name was called, and a nurse led me (at proper social distance) to the testing center and deposited me in an exam room where I resumed waiting and read the oh-so-cheery account of poor Jane losing two siblings to the sweating sickness. A different nurse in full PPE came in, quizzed me on my symptoms, took my temperature (normal), and strapped a blood pressure cuff to my arm. She agreed that my symptoms sounded like plain ordinary asthma, then she fired up the blood pressure machine, got out the testing kit, and proceeded to tell me that everyone in my household would have to self-isolate with me until the test results came back in three to five days - including my essential employee husband who just got promoted into a new position at work.


"That's going to skyrocket now," I said, pointing to the blood pressure machine. It did. She had to take it again after I'd had a minute to calm down.


Then came the swabs. As a kid I was prone to strep throat and sinus infections, so I'm no stranger to throat and nasal swabs, and they're about as fun as I remembered. (It's hard to believe something can go that far up your nose, but it can and it will.) After that, I waited for the doctor while reading about the sweating sickness death toll in 1528 London and questioning my bookish life choices.


The doctor, a very nice woman whose face I never saw (come to think of it, she never saw mine, either), quizzed me on my symptoms, listened to my breathing, and very regretfully told me there was nothing she could do about the asthma because it didn't sound like an infection and ER docs aren't authorized to prescribe preventative inhalers. I would have to see my GP for an asthma action plan. Full circle! Wheeeee!


So now I'm home with my husband (who I think is still trying to decide how he feels about his sudden holiday) and my father-in-law (who is thrilled he can fob off his bowling club duties this week) and a raging anxiety-induced headache, and I'm just praying my results come in quickly and are negative so my husband can go back to work and I can go back to the GP and get my stupid asthma treated. (If I test positive, that could potentially shut down hubby's whole workplace, as he's my most likely source of infection. Ugh.)


So I've had an interesting day that went south pretty quickly, but I'm also counting my blessings. I'm not terribly ill (knock on wood), I haven't been more than mildly inconvenienced, my husband's boss is being very understanding, and I live in a country with universal healthcare and a half-decent coronavirus response. I won't pay a cent out of pocket for that whole ER visit. That still amazes me after growing up in the American health care system where my last ER visit cost over $1,000 and consisted of a brief examination and a can of Sprite from the vending machine.


If you made it this far, thanks for reading my privileged whinge. I just needed to write it all down to help me process everything. I feel a little better now. Here's a cute bunny eating a flower petal.