Is It Or Isnt It
May 18, 2020
I am recovering from what I think was a Covid-19 infection. I had almost all of the symptoms of Covid 19, yet I tested negative for it, nine days after my first cough.
A couple of weeks ago, I started coughing. At first it was a tiny random cough, that I just dismissed. I can’t remember when I last had a cough.
For most people, every cough or sneeze these days seems to come with a question mark, and every change in health a cause to ask if it is ‘the virus’. I haven’t asked that about myself until now … even during the first few days of what turned out to be a breathless few weeks, I was looking for any other explanation, not believing I could be infected. No one wants to believe it.
If I could have handled this differently, I would have believed the signs faster, and got a test sooner. I would have asked for a second test the following day.
This was nothing like any cold, flu, or allergy I’ve ever had. My nose was clear as a bell. Whatever it was, was entirely in my lungs. To coin a phrase from Oprah: ‘if someone shows you who they are, believe them’.
Two weeks of breathing problems …
Sixteen days later, I am, hopefully reaching the other side of an illness that built in steady, breathless waves, then reached a crescendo that had me considering calling an ambulance. I guess this is what they consider a ‘mild’ case.
For the majority of the first 10 days I was going to bed unusually early most nights. I sat on my work stool for a few hours of work each day, moving as little as possible. It helped my breathing to be upright. I was super tired most days, and slept a lot.
During the weekend of the 9th of May I laid, propped up on pillows on my bed, in short pj bottoms and a t shirt with the window wide open, and cool air blowing in - thanking the heavens for the cold weather and wind. It’s how I slept too.
I’m writing this down for a couple of reasons:
First of all I wanted to just record how the past couple of weeks were for me, to look back on.
The second reason, is to share my story of what I believe was the virus, and to point out a growing body of evidence that Covid-19 tests can yield false negative results, depending on how the sample is taken, and at which point in the illness.
False negatives seem to be a thing …
In my case I had a throat swab. The nurse made two attempts at taking it, because I was gagging each time. I had also gargled with mouthwash containing alcohol ( without thinking ) just 15-20 miuntes prior to my test. She told me I was doing well and to relax. It is not a comfortable experience for anyone, and those health workers are incredible. Absolutely incredible. Fearless.
Here are some articles about ‘false negatives’.
If you have multiple Covid 19 symptoms, and test negative - I urge you to consider asking for a second test. Please continue to self isolate.
Research from an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and his team
British Medical Journal
Channel 4 UK article
Times UK article
Another article about ‘false negatives’
I imagine there will be those that read this and conclude quickly that my test was negative, therefore I must have been sick with something else. When I learned my result, I was relieved - glad that I had missed the virus. But I was also confused. I went to bed accepting the outcome, and hopeful that whatever was going on had reached an apex already anyway. But it hadn’t, I had my worst night with it that same night, sitting on my bed breathless and crying at 4am, on a Monday morning, wondering whether to call an ambulance.
As I reflect back on my timeline, I am pretty sure my sympoms align accurately with Covid-19.
My doctor didn’t call back when I had called them a few days in. I don’t really blame them. I wouldn’t want to be near anyone infected with it. In Ottawa, only health workers were being routinely tested. I had been in contact with almost no one! Just out shopping for groceries once a week. I’ve also been taking 5-10km runs along the river a couple of times a week. However I live in a condo building downtown were there are 200 units, and we’ve heard of cases already in the building. I also live on a floor where two doctors live.
Whatever I am recovering from is taking time. I am a long distance runner, and normally run around 100km a month on average. I haven’t run in over two weeks now. Just emptying the tumble drier end folding laundry leaves me breathless at the moment. Since it is more than 14 days since my first symptoms, I have been going for some very early morning, empty city walks, and need to walk slowly. I get breathless climbing steps, yet it is wonderfully much better than a week ago, and improving day by day.
After self isolating for 14 days, I am continuing to be very socially distant, I am continuing to practice good hygiene. But I am hopeful that an antibody test will prove to me that this was indeed Covid-19. It would seem very remarkable for it to be something else given the symptoms and progression, and the period of time we’re all in.