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LEGGETT: COVID-19 scare brings new perspective

I stood in the middle of my kitchen crying. It was 12:30 a.m., the day before my 30th birthday.

I had taken the upcoming week off work to relax and celebrate. 

Instead, I found myself starting the week off panicked and sick, making an appointment the following morning for a COVID-19 test. 

Just a couple of days prior, I recall feeling a sore throat.

When I sat down on the couch that Friday evening, I physically could not resist the urge to nap. It had been a busy week, so I assumed I just needed to recharge.

However, Saturday, the feeling of fatigue remained. I napped all day before mustering the energy to grab dinner and drinks with a friend — an irresponsible decision in hindsight. 

I had been daily checking my temperature as a requirement for my job, and I did that throughout the weekend, too. I never had a temperature higher than 98.7, but Sunday, I spent the whole day sleeping again. 

Around 8 p.m Sunday, I woke up and felt like something wasn’t right. 

I was sneezing and had nasal congestion. But that could be seasonal allergies, I told myself. 

My head was aching, but that could be from any number of things.

The thing that really set the panic in was that my chest felt full and heavy. My breathing felt slightly labored and the urge to cough was coming on more and more. 

Anyone who knows anything about COVID-19 would be worried at this point.

I did a little research, and filled out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s symptom self-check questionnaire, which indicated my symptoms might mean I have the novel coronavirus and I should schedule a test. 

I made an appointment at First Care Clinic in Winchester, which is one of the few places in my town that offers testing. 

I was able to do all the pre-appointment stuff online. I answered questions about my symptoms and requested a nasal swab test and an antibody test, which would tell me if I’d likely had the virus already or not.

The morning of my appointment, I arrived 10 minutes early, as requested, and texted “HERE” to a phone number provided. 

I received a reply asking me to wait in my vehicle and expect a call soon.

Within minutes, I was on the phone with a nurse practitioner who asked some basic questions about my symptoms, travel and more. 

She recommended some over-the-counter medication for my nasal congestion and prescribed me a cough suppressant.

I couldn’t have the antibody test because I had active symptoms.

I pulled to the back of the building, where a nurse came out carrying a tool that was basically the longest Q-Tip I’d ever seen.

She warned me the test would be uncomfortable but not painful. She was right. 

I remained in my car, tilted my head back and she inserted the long swab into my left nostril. 

A couple seconds later, she used the same swab in my right nostril and I felt the same quick, painless but uncomfortable sensation. 

I liken the feeling to when you have the urge to sneeze but can’t, but exponentially worse. And it feels like they might be close to tickling your brain. 

I gave my nose a good strong rub after the test, and wiped the tears from my eyes. 

After the swab, I was told it could take 24 to 72 hours for results, so I should watch my phone for the next few days.

Within 10 minutes of my arrival, I had talked to the provider and been tested.

The test was quick and painless, but the wait for results would not be. I worried the whole time, checking my phone constantly and praying it wouldn’t be the whole 72 hours. 

It was nearly 36 hours before I got a call from an unknown number, and I got the news that my test was negative.

I thought a lot during the short few days from the time I felt sick to when I was told my results were negative.

I thought about the couple of times I ran into the store quickly without a mask because it was inconvenient to find it and put it on. I thought about the few times I’ve even ripped the mask off in the store, frustrated because I couldn’t breathe well in it.

I thought about all the people I would need to tell if my test was positive — all the people I would have felt like I let down by not being as careful as I could be. Dozens of people could have been exposed to the potentially deadly virus because of me, and then dozens and dozens more through secondhand contact.

It’s a scary time to get sick, especially when the symptoms so closely match the virus’ symptoms.

I’m thankful I did not have the virus, but this was certainly a wake up call for me. 

I’ll be more careful and cautious. 

I also encourage each of you to take advantage of the test. Many people are asymptomatic, which means they have the virus but don’t show any of the symptoms, and could be unknowingly spreading it to people they love and care about and others.

Please wear your mask, even when it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient. 

Wash your hands. 

Make good choices. 

Stay home when you can. 

The stress of even possibly having the virus is not worth it.

The day after I got my negative results, Kentucky reported 220 new cases and seven more deaths. I’m incredibly thankful I’m not part of those figures.

Those are more than numbers. Those are human beings. Someone’s family. They mattered, and we can all do our part of help prevent more sickness and death.

I’m disappointed that it took a scare like this to really wake me up to the seriousness of COVID-19.

I hope my experience will help others. 

Whitney Leggett is a regional editor for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. She can be reached at whitney.leggett@jessaminejournal.com.

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0049.

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