27th Mar 2020
I was tested for Covid-19 this week after developing a fever and breathing problems. Here’s my experience of the drive-thru test centre
I’ve had breathing difficulties for about a week. I have asthma, so I wasn’t overly concerned in the beginning (I’m used to having breathing problems from time to time).
But then my temperature shot up. First to 37.8, then to 38, followed by 38.1.
I also developed a splitting headache, and my breathing got even worse – as though a brick was sitting on my chest and every breath wasn’t enough.
Obviously, with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, I got worried.
As soon as my GP opened the following morning, I gave her a ring. She said I qualified for a Covid-19 test on all counts: fever, breathing difficulties, and I live with a number of high-risk people.
That same day, I received a call from the HSE to say I would be tested the following afternoon at a drive-thru test centre. My appointment was confirmed via text message, which also included the exact location of the centre and my patient reference number. The woman on the phone advised me to bring photo ID, but said I wouldn’t need anything else but myself.
At the test centre
Arriving at the drive-thru test centre, the reality and severity of Covid-19 truly set in. I felt like I was in some sort of pandemic-themed Hollywood film. Surreal yet real at the same time.
Before entering the premises, a frontline security person confirmed my identity before beckoning the car through the gate. He also instructed me to keep the car windows closed until otherwise instructed to open them.
Men in hi-vis jackets, wearing protective gloves and face masks, directed me to one of four queues – each queue was about seven or eight cars long.
I was then approached by another frontline official who handed me a packet. This included a face mask (which I was asked to put on immediately), a rubbish bag to dispose of the mask after my test, and an information booklet about Covid-19. He also said to turn off the engine and to keep the windows closed until told otherwise. I waited for approximately five or 10 minutes.
While I waited, two of the other queues were motioned forward to the testing bays ahead. I felt nervous and on-edge at this stage – the formality of it all was new and strange to me.
Put at ease
But, very soon, I was put completely at ease.
When my queue was finally motioned forward to the testing bays, we were each asked to park in front of individual tents. ‘Tent’ is probably the wrong word. Small marquee is more accurate.
I was approached by a nurse who confirmed my name, phone number, home address and GP’s name. She was incredibly warm and friendly (I almost didn’t register the fact she was dressed in full protective gear).
She also passed me a packet of tissues and instructed me to blow my nose and dispose of the tissue in the rubbish bag provided in my pack. To get a good swab of my nasal passage, it needed to be clean and clear.
Next, she returned to the marquee and her colleague (another lovely woman) approached me with a swab. I was suddenly reminded of my recent smear test, but that’s beside the point.
First, the swab was rubbed along the back of my throat (not painful at all, completely fine), and then it was inserted up my left nostril, into my nasal passage. This was much less pleasant. I was surprised by just how far the swab was pushed in; my immediate thought was ‘she’s gone too far and now it’s swirling my brain’.
The nurse (who obviously picked up on my discomfort) was sympathetic and assured me it would all be over soon. And it was. Within a few seconds, the swab was removed (although my nose felt weird for hours after).
Once everyone in my queue had been tested, we were once again motioned forward by frontline security and directed towards the exit. All eight cars left the premises together, and that was that.
The entire process was extremely well-organised, efficient and professional. The staff couldn’t have been better and I have the utmost respect for them all.
I’m now awaiting my test results (which I believe take two or three days to come through). I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a negative result and hoping that I just have a standard chest infection.
Time will tell.
Feature photo: RTÉ News
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