It’s a new year and Gemma Good is starting it in isolation as we learn in this week’s Good Life column…
It all started with a very faint red line. So weak that I walked over to the window, keeping my distance from everyone else, to make sure she was there. Sure enough, there were two lines on the test plate; a thick red line and one so faint you had to squint to see it. Yet it was there. My antigen test was positive.
As if contracting Covid wasn’t bad enough, you’re getting completely ripped off by coming to this conclusion. The test costs €7.95. I opened the box, expecting to see more than a swab and a test plate, but no. Almost eight euros for a test. While I of course believe the virus exists, I now have a greater tolerance for those who say this is all just a money racket.
Without any symptoms, I still had a hard time believing I actually had Covid. I tried to get myself a PCR test, but people between the ages of 4 and 39 must request antigen tests first. I did this, thinking Covid would have long since left my system by the time they arrived. But, in all honesty, they arrived within two days. Five HSE tests, free.
I did one, this time with two blood red lines appearing after 15 minutes. Positive without a doubt. Knowing that I still had no symptoms, I was shocked. I then tried to request a PCR test without success. Tried Cavan, Longford, Leitrim, Clare, Westmeath and Limerick with no testing to do.
My mum, great at her Facebook forums and group chats, learned that if you go to the HSE website at midday and opt for Westmeath you will get an appointment for the Athlone test centre. So I sat waiting for appointments to become available. Constantly refreshing the page, I thought back to the last time I did this, which was probably for concert tickets. The anticipation, the panic when they appeared, the rush to fill in your details as quickly as possible, and the excitement when you received the message confirming that you had reserved your place.
I went through all of these stages, but replaced excitement with relief. At midnight sharp, more than 400 appointments became available for two days. Facebook had advised not to select an early time slot because an error might occur. Probably due to demand, as other people select the first date they see. I chose 2 p.m. and I had my time slot.
I wasn’t going to bother doing a PCR test, not because I didn’t have time to go or anything (I find myself with a lot of time these days) but I know that there are many other people who have to take tests to see doctors, to get treatment in hospital or for their job. Since I have no symptoms, I was happy to wait at home.
But then I remembered that I hadn’t had my booster, nor couldn’t for three months after testing positive for covid. I don’t know what happens if you get the callback within that time frame, but I don’t really intend to find out. I was concerned that the restrictions would change and you would need your reminder to enter gyms, restaurants, to use public transport, etc. So I decided to take my test. There was a steady stream of people getting tested at the Athlone GAA Club, but it wasn’t jammed as I expected.
The test came back positive within 48 hours. Like most people, since the start of the pandemic, my worst fear was of contracting the virus. I was worried about the effects it would have on me, Long Covid, who I would pass it on to and honestly dreaded the 10 days in isolation.
At the beginning, I listed a lot of things I was going to do: sort my CV for an internship this summer, start looking for accommodation for an internship, do the spring cleaning in my room, read the three books lying around on my desk for the past four months, I have a head start on my university assignments for the next semester. The list was endless.
The first and second day, nothing stopped me. Five bags of clothes, old makeup and just general shit were filled, all ready for recycling or the trash. I read a bit, did a few workouts at home (throwback to lockdown days) and finally succumbed to Netflix’s lineup of movies.
All in all, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but I know a lot of people aren’t lucky enough to be able to say that. I’m coming out of solitary tomorrow and I’m grateful. I wasn’t going to do this article about my Covid experience, for some reason I felt like I was doing something wrong by catching Covid.
I read an article by Orla Muldoon, professor of psychology at UL, about how the government is placing too much emphasis on personal responsibility as a tool in the fight against Covid. By using this tactic, you feel irresponsible in catching the virus. I know a lot of people feel the same. The message I received from a friend telling me I was a close contact also included a lengthy apology, and it was not an HSE text as we all know this system has its flaws.
It’s a pandemic, so the chances of getting Covid are quite high, especially with 20,000 cases per day. My advice would be to not bother destroying your brain about where you might have contracted it, to isolate yourself and relax. I know a lot of people have the virus right now, so hope everyone is doing well.
* Gemma Good is from Killeshandra and is a second year journalism student at the University of Limerick.
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