My older son is back in school full-time and plays travel soccer. My husband travels for work and has been flying a lot over the past few months. I work from home full-time. And, my 2-year-old started preschool part-time last month. I tell you all of this because of everyone in our household, I was honestly the least worried about my youngest being exposed to COVID-19. Yet, he’s the first one in our household (because of symptoms) to get swabbed recently for the virus. Then, the 72-hour countdown began while we waited for the results.
Rewind to last week. We spent almost six hours total in the parking lot of our pediatrician’s office trying to get to the bottom of a fever and cough. This is the first time we’ve had to be seen since the pandemic started, so I wasn’t prepared for the new normal when it comes to seeing your doctor. I should have expected something when I got a text message to check-in online and to text them my parking spot number when we arrived.
Upon following instructions, I thought to myself, are they going to escort us in? And then I saw a tent with what looked like a triage area set up complete with an examination table, stethoscopes, masks, gloves, thermometers, etc.
A few minutes later, a mask-wearing nurse came out with a bin full of medical supplies and took my son’s vitals without ever removing him from his car seat. She stuck the thermometer under his little armpit while he watched Finding Nemo on the DVD player. As expected, he had a fever of over 100 degrees. After asking me a few questions about how he was feeling, she told us the doctor would be out shortly, and she walked back inside.
Then out came the doctor, who was wearing a mask and a face shield, gloves, and a gown, and approached the backseat window to exam my son. I asked if we should move to the back of my SUV or to the tent area. He motioned us to the tent. Okay, I thought, this is a first. The doctor examined my son’s ears, nose, throat, and listened to his breathing. At one point, the sun was glaring in his eyes, and he couldn’t fully see my son’s throat. I was nervous he might miss something without adequate lighting and a more conducive exam space.
Lungs sounded good. One ear was a little pink. Throat looked good. He had a little congestion in his nose but nothing that warranted a diagnosis. Because of the days-long fever, they decided to take his blood. Once again, the nurse came out and pricked his finger and grabbed a bandage from the makeshift table. Back inside she went. The doctor then came back out to the tent and said his bloodwork showed he had an infection — possibly the ear, possibly something else. She said he wasn’t acting like a COVID-19 patient and was doubtful that was the case, but said if I wanted to rule that out, we could do a swab.
I haven’t been swabbed myself, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect in terms of his reaction. The nurse asked me to give him a bear hug, and she held his forehead sturdy. Next thing you know, he’s as stiff as a board and screaming. The swab was up one nostril for what seemed like an eternity, and she still had to do the other one for eight seconds. That. Was. Terrible. I was sobbing. He was screaming. I could barely calm him down.
The nurse then told us we would need to quarantine until we got the results in 72 hours, which was pure agony. My brain immediately started racing. What if he has it? Who have we been around? How long will it last? What if I get it and am too sick to care for them? What if my other son has it? Maybe he already had it and gave it to his brother?
The next 72 hours dragged by. We didn’t go out. He didn’t go to school. He was still acting sick but improving slowly by the day. The call finally came on a Saturday, and of course, I had just walked outside for a minute and missed the call. I frantically texted the number that was being used to communicate when you pulled into the parking lot, so surely it was monitored. Nope… denial text. So, I paged the on-call doctor.
My phone rang again about 25 minutes later. I answered and held my breath. “The COVID-19 results were negative,” the nurse on the other line said. The relief I felt at that moment is something I’ve never felt before. My poor baby didn’t have the virus. We didn’t infect anyone. And he was going to be okay.
Now, if I could just get him to wear a mask, I’d feel a lot better, but he refuses. So, we limit where we go, who we see, and what we do. It’s not worth repeating what we had just been through, even with a negative result. Stay safe!