Just A (Brain) Tickle

Or:  How I Survived The Dreaded COVID19 Test

Image by United Nations COVID-19 Respons
Image by United Nations COVID-19 Respons
Image by United Nations COVID-19 Respons

May 17, 2020 by LeeAnn Carlen

Ever wondered what it feels like to get your brain tickled?

 

Ok, I hadn’t either, but I found out a few weeks ago when I had the dreaded COVID-19 test. It was interesting to say the very least.

 

A few weeks ago , I started running a fever. It wasn’t insanely high to begin with, but for someone who almost never runs a temperature, I knew I needed to keep an eye on it. Y’all, it’s a scary time to have a fever. People are not chill about it. I never even told my mom I wasn’t feeling well because I had a 0-out-of-10 interest level in opening the “Pandora’s Box of Mom Reaction”.

 

Sidenote: in the first couple of weeks of quarantine I was at my local Kroger getting some essentials (I swear!) when I sniffed. Allergy season had started to take hold, and I had an itch! I was also wearing a mask and being safe but, ya know, what am I supposed to do? SNIFF. There was a man behind me, casually shopping for pasta, who JERKED his head around at me. His eyes got as big as saucers and he quickly scurried away. I think of him often and wonder if he got the pasta that was so essential to him or if he has since starved to death due to my sniffle.

 

Anyway.

 

I had a fever. And despite all the resting and copious amounts of fluids, nevertheless she persisted. The fever generally oscillated between 99.9 and 100.4 , but by day 7 it was up to over 101. At that point, my brother-also my housemate- banished me to my room for the next 48 hours “just in case”. I’m sure it had nothing at all to do with him being tired of seeing only my face for the last 87 weeks.

 

My main symptoms were the fever and severe fatigue but I also experienced chills off and on (normal with a fever, exacerbated by the fact that I’m always cold anyway), tightness in my chest (who hasn’t had that since this started? Hello Anxiety my old friend), some congestion, and a series of headaches, including a 24 hour debilitating migraine. Even though some of these symptoms overlap with your stereotypical COVID-19 symptoms, I still deemed none of them severe enough for me to be incredibly concerned.

 

Despite my no fear approach, my brother was feeling less chill about it. He has a dear friend who’s a nurse at a local hospital. She heard the news and sternly suggested I get tested. She mentioned they’d seen quite a few cases where the fever never went above 100.3 and where headache was a major symptom. Erring on the side of caution, my brother and I decided it would be smart for us to both go.

 

We decided the drive through option was obviously the way to go because it’s free and if I don’t already have coronarivus, I certainly don’t want to GET it in the waiting room at the Doctor’s office. Also, did I mention the part about it being free?

 

We came to this conclusion around 6pm on a Friday and, confusingly, the Davidson County drive through testing sites are not open on the weekend, so we decided to wait it out until Monday. (This hopefully goes without saying, but if your symptoms are severe or you’re having trouble breathing, please do not wait it out til Monday. Call your local coronavirus hotline immediately and get their best recommendation as to what hospital to get yourself to stat. The More You Knooooooow.)

 

So after a miserable weekend crying over good TV and not being able to go to my favorite local getaway - my Living Room- on Monday we finally hit the Corona Drive Through. We opted to go to the one by Nissan Stadium since it’s closest to my house, assuming it would be bigger and hopefully have less of a wait. When we arrived, we were shocked to find that there was no wait at all. Like, a zero car line.

 

There were police officers and essential workers - some that were potentially volunteers, or perhaps worked for the health department- that were directing traffic (aka still just us) into the correct line of orange cones and telling us where to go, when to stop, etc. They stopped us just outside the entrance so a medical worker- fully covered in PPE- could come and take some basic information from us like, name, date of birth, address, phone number, gender and race . I fully expected a series of questions-what my symptoms were, the details about my temperature, how long this had been going on, where I had been, if I had  been into contact with anyone who was sick- the works. I wasn’t sure if there would be a certain criteria that I had to meet in order to get a test. Would we need to “pass” to even move on to the next round? Guy #1 took the info, handed us a piece of paper and sent us on into the parking lot. Ok then!

 

The parking lot was covered with orange cones and looked like a really cool course where you might learn how to be a stunt driver for those fancy picture shows like The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. In all seriousness, the set up was VERY impressive and we could tell that, if there HAD been more cars (again, anyone besides us), it would have made a lot of sense and been easy to navigate.

 

We were again directed by more kind folks- who deserve all of our applause- into what was essentially a temporary carport structure. There were 3 of these and we spotted our first fellow “patients” in Carports 1 & 2, so carport 3 was our lucky number. There were 3 kind women waiting there, again covered in PPE, and I prepped myself with all the answers for the questions that I assumed were coming.

 

One of the ladies approached the driver’s side window  and collected my brother’s piece of paper. The next thing I knew, she pulled out the longest Q-Tip I have EVER SEEN out of a protective, sterile container, and stuck it right up my brothers nose. I’m not gonna lie, his leg twitched and he squealed. I was suddenly cured of my fever and felt a lot better!

 

In all seriousness, I was glad he went first because I was able to steel myself for what was about to come. After she handed his sample off to another worker, it was my turn. I used some yoga breathing to prep myself and inhaled deeply before she approached my nostril with THE TIP. As the sample collector got higher in my nostril, I slowly released that deep breath and, honestly, I cannot recommend this step enough. It’s not that it hurts necessarily, but it is incredibly uncomfortable. Imagine you have a centipede crawling up your face and it’s headed straight for your nose. You know exactly where it’s going but you’re powerless to stop it. It pulls right up into your nostril like a train into a tunnel – choo, choo!- and when it reaches your brain it starts doing “The Macarena”. It feels a little bit like that. I luckily did not squeal, but I did release one single tear, just like a scene from The Notebook.

 

After our samples had been collected, she handed each of us an information sheet and let us know that our test results would take 7 to 10 days but that many were coming in even sooner. Then she sent us on our merry way! No long medical history or our own personal Who’s Who of Pandemic Exposure. Just good, fast medical care.

 

In total, the whole process took about 10 minutes. We were pleasantly surprised and impressed at how well thought out the process was and how smoothly the whole thing went.

 

On the information sheet was a number you can call for results information as well as a website that you can sign up with for quicker results. The next morning, my brother signed up for the site immediately so that he would know as soon as his results came through. I was in less of a hurry, because I thought we were on a 7-day timeline here. Well hell if my brother’s results didn’t come through around 4pm! Once his results came through, I quickly signed up for the site and I got my results around 3 hours later. After all that – we are both negative. What a relief! Since it was everyone’s favorite holiday- Cinco de Mayo-we celebrated being Coronavirus free with some Mexican food and margaritas. Oh, the irony.

 

So if you or anyone you know is having symptoms that could be related to COVID-19, I encourage you to get the free test just to know for sure. Stay safe out there, Nashville, think of your neighbors and WEAR A MASK!

 

Music, podcast and culture writer LeeAnn Carlen has traveled the world several times over and still manages to stay  completely caught up on Vanderpump Rules. Ask for her recommendations for  Indian food in London or the best sweet shop in Sydney - she'll always have a quick answer and many more "secrets of the locals" to tell. Still, LeeAnn's biggest guilty pleasure is hanging out in her Nashville backyard with her fur-baby and 3 unwelcome opossums.

Music, podcast and culture writer LeeAnn Carlen has traveled the world several times over and still manages to stay  completely caught up on Vanderpump Rules. Ask for her recommendations for  Indian food in London or the best sweet shop in Sydney - she'll always have a quick answer and many more "secrets of the locals" to tell. Still, LeeAnn's biggest guilty pleasure is hanging out in her Nashville backyard with her fur-baby and 3 unwelcome opossums.