My COVID-19 test results

Picture of Dr. Jen Kerns

Dr. Jen Kerns

By the time I got to work Friday morning, my temperature had risen to 100.5. Then I was much more convinced that I was actually sick. I was masked and gloved (after hand hygiene) as I gathered personal belongings from my office like photos of my family (because I knew they’d come in to do “terminal cleaning” there if I tested positive) and then spent an hour navigating the 3 different areas of my workplace in order to get swabbed. First I had to show up at the door of occupational health, where they had me stand in the hallway and took my pulse ox (99%) and temperature (99.8 by then). A nurse escorted me down the hall toward the emergency room and outpatient clinic areas, where I waited a few minutes in an empty waiting area before a physician took me into a room and asked me the same questions I’d just been asked (and filled out on a form) in occupational health, and a few more. He verified with a higher up that they felt I was worthy of a test (which he said was a no-brainer, yet still required approval), placed the electronic order for it in my chart, and gave me two forms explaining procedures for returning to work in various scenarios and information about the type of leave I’d have (my own sick leave if I test negative, but something called “safety leave” for up to 14 days if I test positive – an administrative type of leave that would be granted under the assumption that I contracted this at work, along the lines of workman’s comp, which allows me to be out without charging my own sick leave reserves). He told me that my results probably wouldn’t be back until the next day and that he would call me in the afternoon if I test negative (whereas another head physician would call me to talk more details if I were positive). He then told me where to go (outside and in the back of the building) to get the actual swab done.

I trekked out there after dropping my belongings in my car, and wandered down a few hallways to an empty waiting room where I was greeted by someone who once again took my temperature (99.7) in addition to my pulse ox, blood pressure and heart rate. (All fine.) I was led back into a different room where a physician introduced himself and asked me how he could help me that day. This was the first time I felt annoyed. The entire creation of this clinic in the back of the hospital is to test people for SARS-CoV-2, and I had already had touch points and questions from the nurse in occupational health followed by the physician in occupational health. I said, deadpan, “I’m here to get tested for COVID.” It took some effort not to sound snarky. He saw that I was in scrubs and asked if I had been sent from occupational health (yes) and then asked me again about my symptoms, when they started, my exposures, etc. He looked in my ears and throat and then listened to my heart and lungs with his stethoscope before handing me some tissues and warning me that the swab goes up very high into the back of my nose to my pharynx and might make me sneeze or cough. He very quickly touched my brain through each of my two nostrils and then sent me on my way.

I ate an apple on the way home and it tasted funny. I could still smell just fine, so I suspected it was due to the zinc lozenges I’d been sucking on rather than that change in smell and taste known to occur due to the coronavirus. I showered and laundered my clothes when I arrived home, then donned my surgical mask and washed my hands once more before going upstairs to grab some lunch out of the fridge and take it, along with more water and a charger for my devices, to my bedroom where I’d be sequestered until we knew my results. I spent the afternoon posting my blog which I’d written before leaving for work and watching a movie on my iPad called Knives Out (a great way to kill a few hours!). It happened to be Kevin’s and my 5th wedding anniversary, and we had advance-ordered a fancy dinner from a DC restaurant called Kinship. Kevin ended up leaving my meal outside the foot of our closed bedroom door: grilled asparagus salad with strawberries and creamy bleu cheese with lemon vinaigrette, and roast chicken with roasted potatoes (Kinship makes the best roast chicken I’ve ever had). I was sad we couldn’t celebrate our anniversary together this year, but I hope to have another 50 or so opportunities in the future. ❤️

My temperature remained normal the whole evening and I slept like a baby with my phone on “do not disturb,” awakening without any runny nose or cough, and still afebrile. I glanced at my phone and saw that I’d missed my infectious disease friend at work, who sent me the following message after she couldn’t reach me by phone: “NEGATIVE! You’re negative! Go kiss your kid! Yes, there can be false negatives early in disease so pay attention to your symptoms; we could always retest if needed but I’ll hope you just feel better this weekend. Call if you need anything!”

Hallelujah! I felt great, but decided to continue isolating and wearing a mask for at least 24 hours past my last fever (which was 100.5 at 10:30am Friday) to be safe. And indeed, since then I’ve continued to feel great with zero symptoms and a normal temperature all weekend. What the heck was that on Friday? I’ll never know. Part of me wonders whether I could’ve even manifested that low grade fever just with my own mind, just worrying about the virus. Stranger things have happened. In any case, I’m doing wonderfully and appreciate all of the kind comments of support from you all. Back to work tomorrow….

Stay safe and continue social distancing and wearing your masks, everyone — and happy Memorial Day!

Love, Jen





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