Recently, I wrote to a wonderful friend to inquire how they were weathering this sea of change. I thought their response aptly summed up the thoughts of the world when they said:
“Waiting for the other shoe to drop like everyone else."
Just over a week ago, the other shoe dropped for me. I received a call from public health to inform me that I had been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
Let’s face it, no one ever wants to get a call from Public Health. Back in the day, a call like that could mean you had cooties where you shouldn’t have cooties. Today, with COVID-19, it’s a whole different ball game. As you can imagine, like anyone faced with this situation, I had a lot of questions. Everything from who was it, where was it, what’s close contact, and what’s next?
For privacy reasons, and I respect this, Public Health does not tell you the name of the contact, or where the contact occurred. They only disclose the date in which you were exposed. In my case, I was less than a metre apart from a patient in a public space before social distancing became the norm.
Next, they wanted to know if I had any symptoms. If you are symptom-free, you need to self-isolate for 14 days from the date of your exposure. This means staying at home, no contact with others, no sharing space with family members, using a separate bathroom, not sharing food, cooking or eating utensils, and disinfecting everything. Essentially this equals lots of “me time”, with bleach. Compared to our ancestors who endured two World Wars, Dieppe, Normandy, and Vimy Ridge, I consider this a very small sacrifice to help slow the spread of the virus and keep our families, friends, and neighbours healthy.
Thankfully, when the Public Health nurse called I didn’t have any symptoms; I was feeling fit as a fiddle. When I asked the nurse if she wanted details of my contact with others she replied:
“No, since you have not tested positive, this is your own business.”
The protocol may have changed since that conversation, but at the time, this response didn’t sit well with me. I had been on a hike with some girlfriends a couple of days beforehand. All have families, and one works in healthcare. Thankfully we had practiced social distancing, so the risk of transmission was low. However, symptoms can sometimes take up to 14 days to appear. The nurse told me that if I remained symptom-free, I had to self- isolate for 6 more days, which would be a full two weeks after my exposure. Then she wished me well, promised to check in daily, and hung up.
To say I was gobsmacked after that call would be the understatement of the year. Given we are in a pandemic I really shouldn’t have been. Yet at the heart of it, like most people, I felt COVID -19 was something that was going to happen around me, not to me. I decided very quickly that the only way to get through the next few days without going down a rabbit hole of worry and fear was to quickly accept what was happening. I also needed to do the right thing and give my friends a heads-up that I had been exposed, and keep busy!
And then it happened. The morning after the call I started experiencing some symptoms. Nothing major, I just felt, “off “. My son went to three pharmacies to try and find me a thermometer so I could take my temperature – they were all sold out. When the nice public health nurse called again to ask how I was feeling I really wanted to tell her I was still fit as a fiddle, but I wasn’t. That’s when she said:
“How quickly can you come down to the testing centre?”
I have to give our health care workers kudos - they didn’t waste any time. I had an appointment to be tested for COVID-19 the same day- so did 97 people in my community the day before. When I arrived, I spoke to the staff through plexiglass. I was given a mask and isolated in a room. No one wants anyone exposed to be in a crowded waiting room. Following that, another very nice nurse who was fully gowned, gloved, and had a shield over her face took my history, my vitals, and put what looked like a pipe-cleaner up my nose.
At this point you might be thinking:
“That’s awful! Who wants to go through all this and have a pipe cleaner shoved up their nose?”
Comparatively speaking, if we were playing a game of Would You Rather right now, and I had to choose between having a pipe cleaner stuck up my nose, or going through 14 hours of labour to have a baby, hands down, I would choose the pipe cleaner. It’s wasn’t that bad. Moreover, I was very grateful that other people valued my life as much as I did, and that they were willing to put their lives on the line to help keep me, and others, healthy and safe.
When I got back in my car, I sat for a long time. I am a very positive person at the best of times, but an experience like this can shake even the most resilient individual. The last 24 hours had been a bit surreal - I needed to take a moment to process it all.
Sitting in the parking lot, I imagined how people with HIV, Tuberculosis or Leprosy might feel. I also thought of all the things that had been important to me before that moment, that were not important anymore. I then took a moment to remind myself about all the things I was grateful for. There is a beautiful quote by Albert Einstein that says:
“Many of the things in life you can count, don’t count. Many of the things in life you can’t count, really count.”
Sitting there, I decided the most important thing was to remain positive and either way, see this experience as a blessing. If I tested positive, I was young, healthy, strong, and had access to excellent healthcare. Like 80 % of the population, odds are, I would get through it. If I tested negative, I dodged a bullet. Whatever was going to happen, I needed to have faith and believe everything would be okay, or things could go south pretty fast.
COVID -19 is a reminder to all of us that sudden, unplanned change can occur rapidly, at any moment. Acceptance is the first step towards successfully navigating change of any kind, especially unexpected change. Looking at your scenario from the outside in, instead of the inside out, can help you quickly accept the situation, reduce fear, find clarity of thought, and practice gratitude to help you stay positive through a tough situation.
My hope is by sharing my experience, it will help make COVID-19 a little less scary, inspire a positive mindset as you navigate change, and remind you about what really counts.
Speaking of things that really count, Public Health just called. GREAT NEWS: I tested negative for COVID, hip-hip-hooray!! Since I can’t throw a party to celebrate, I am inviting you to have some fun and sign up for my Super Awesome Challenge. It makes me happy to see you happy, and at the very least it will keep you from going shack wacky.
Until next time: stay home, stay healthy and stay super awesome!