Dr. Alan Whitehorn: Testing for COVID-19

Dr. Alan Whitehorn is a poet, professor emeritus of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada, and is an Aurora Forum Goodwill Ambassador. The following article is reprinted with his permission from 168, a Yerevan, Armenia newspaper, where it was originally published on 19-20 April 2020. It can be found online here.

Article by Dr. Alan Whitehorn

Last Thursday my family doctor was talking with me on the phone and going over my prescription renewals, when I told him about not feeling well for the past ten days. Then he said the words I really did not want to hear: “You should go to the Covid-19 pandemic testing center. It is located at the memorial hockey arena.” My family doctor and I anticipated that I would likely be negative for Covid-19, but could be asymptomatic. We needed to make sure, given my lingering symptoms. Preparing for the uncertain visit to the testing center and possible unknown developments, I took only the bare essentials of ID and put on my special mask and gloves.

Arriving somewhat apprehensively at the big sports complex, most of the signs firmly said “exit only”, as I struggled to find the admission door. Entering the large hockey-rink testing center seemed a bit surreal. I could see all of the staff carefully wrapped up in multiple layers of protective clothing in the virtually empty arena. Fortunately, at this moment, the staff significantly outnumbered this almost solitary patient. It seemed that I would not have to wait long. That was definitely a relief.

The screening proved to be multi-layered, with medical staff at several preliminary analytic tables before I was actually tested by nurses at two subsequent stations. At the first of the final stages, the blood oxygen levels, temperature and blood pressure were taken. Then at the second location, a different nurse, with far more layers and a clear plastic protective face shield, did the invasive nose swab, probing deep into my sinus. The first attempt was unsuccessful, so a second swab was needed. This time on the other side to distribute more evenly the discomfort. Over an hour later, with all the tests done, they indicated that it would be several days before the final results would be known. Until that point, I was to be quarantined at home, not even stopping on the way back to pick up prescriptions at the local drug store. Suddenly, I felt more isolated than before. To add to that mood, it was cold and rainy outside.

After three seemingly long days of waiting, I finally received the important phone call. The nurse revealed the good news. I am negative for Covid-19. I felt a huge relief. I have enormous gratitude and admiration for the extensive medical staff working around the clock and under quite stressful conditions. Kingston is relatively free so far and doing better than most Canadian cities. Still, we worry in this interdependent era when a pandemic can begin in one far-off country and be on the doorsteps of our neighbourhood in only a matter of a few weeks.

However, for now, I can go back to genocide studies and the search for peace in the South Caucasus. Some crises never seem to end.

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