COVID testing in Italy, where I live, was something I had no experience of. Barnet Boy and I are ultra careful. So it was a bit of a shock and concern when I started to feel unwell on Saturday evening.
I was absolutely fine until Saturday evening. Just after eating I started to be aware of a very strange sore throat. And, strangely, my existing tinnitus was going crazy. Now, I am the Queen of sore throats (Sjogrens Syndrome – I have talked about that in my blog previously) but this one was a doozy. I thought perhaps I had managed to scratch my throat when I swallowed. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that had happened. By bedtime it was feeling better so I put it down to that.
Woke Up With A Raging Sore Throat
Sunday morning I woke up feeling pretty rough and with a raging sore throat. My throat was swollen at the back and my voice a bit hoarse. It actually reminded me of how I felt with tonsilitis when I was a kid. I also felt vaguely nauseous. I expected to find I had a temperature as I felt all shivery but in fact my temperature had taken a dive. Again this can happen with my auto immune diseases. The first thing we had to do was get my temperature back up to normal (heating pads at the heart area and hot drinks). Then we had to decide what to do next.
Contacting A Doctor
By now I was masked in order to protect BB. I know, I know. A bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. But it was important to protect him as much as possible.
As it was a Sunday my doctor was not available so I rang the Guardia Medica. This is a standby doctor, what you might call out of hours cover. I spoke to a delightful doctor who asked me my symptoms and health conditions and agreed that it was a case for COVID testing. She said she would pass my details on and someone would get back to me.
About an hour later, someone from ASL, the health service, telephoned. She again talked me through my situation, looked me up on her computer and gave me an appointment for a test the next day. She told me where the test centre was and what time to be there (9am). I looked it up on the internet, found out where the test centre was and read the details of what I had to take with me and how it worked. The test centre was open 9-11.30am.
Quarantined Within The House
Meanwhile, I had already organised a quarantine area for me in the house and stocked it with water, snacks, music etc. I was able to completely isolate from BB. It was strange to be video chatting with him when we were both in the house but in different rooms! And I missed Stevie Mouse and the others.
Arriving At The Test Centre
Monday morning I slipped out the house and drove to the test centre. I got there just before 9am – and there were already 60 cars ahead of me. I could just make out the COVID testing tent in the distance. A member of the Caribinieri Stradale (traffic police) was there making sure we lined up in two rows. He did make me giggle, bless him. It was a horrible gray morning with drizzle. He had his uniform and a big thick woolly hat – on top of which he had perched a pair of sunglasses! So very Italian.
Within minutes there were loads of cars behind me. And the testing staff hadn’t arrived at that point. Just after 9am they arrived and immediately started work. But it was slow, stop start. It reminded me of a bad traffic jam. Occasionally a flurry of cars would leave without stopping under the tent. When I got close enough to hear, it was because they didn’t have an appointment they had just turned up to have a test. Here in Italy, you can only get a test via referral by a doctor.
At one point there was a little manoeuvre required by the cars to stay in line as the edge of the carpark changed. The policeman was in his element directing people to turn their wheel. He looked at me at one point and put out his hand with the command ‘sta ferma‘, stay there or stop there.
Making My Way Forward
Eventually I was on the home run and could clearly see the tent and the testers moving backwards and forwards methodically. Then I was close enough to see what was happening. There was a man in a cabin by the COVID testing tent and two testers in full protective gear. The car in front of me had a woman and some small children. It was actually a small child, about five years old I would guess, who was getting tested. Then I remembered that the day before there had been an announcement that Paciano primary school had to be closed because of an outbreak. Poor little guy, his Mum held him and he was brave.
When it was my turn I pulled alongside the car already in the other lane. I was not encouraged by the fact that the driver from the other car was leaning out vomiting after his test… A lovely lady in PPE asked me my name and went over to the cabin. I saw her strip off her gloves and put on new ones. The man inside the cabin printed out a sheet and gave it to her and she gave it back to me after checking my date of birth. This contained the information and codes I needed to obtain the result online. Then I had the test.
It was unpleasant, I am not going to pretend it wasn’t. The rubbing on the back of my throat in the tonsil area was very scratchy and uncomfortable. And she did it three times. I tell you, if you didn’t have sore throat before the test you would have one afterwards. But I managed it without retching. I have had much worse things done to me, trust me. It is nothing to be afraid of. My throat was really sore as I drove away but by the time I got home 15 minutes later it had to returned to just, well, sore.
The test result was available online first thing Tuesday morning. I am pleased to say it was negative. Phew! And I am feeling much better, though BB tells me I am rather pale.
We learned a lot as a result of this. While we knew the principle of how to get a test, this experience gave us the practical details in case we need to do it again. We also figured out how one of us could quarantine in the house. Something that will hopefully not be needed in future!
The mystery of course is how did I manage to catch anything at all given how careful we are. We literally only go out for necessities. Last week I had been to the veterinary clinic twice for cat emergencies and once to the supermarket. That was unusual. I hadn’t been out at all the preceeding two weeks. It just shows you that even with precautions things can sneak through the defences and how careful we all have to be.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!