A Covid positive start to the new year!

It's a new year and Gemma Good begins it in isolation as we learn in this week's Good Life column...

It all started with a very faint red line. So faint I walked towards the window, keeping my distance from everybody, to make sure it was there. Sure enough there were two lines on the testing plate; one thick red line and one so faint you had to squint to see it. Nonetheless it was there. My antigen test was positive.

As if contracting Covid wasn’t bad enough, you get absolutely ripped off in the process of coming to this conclusion. The test cost €7.95. I opened the box, expecting to see more than one swab and testing plate but no. Nearly eight euro for one test. While I of course believe the virus exists, I now have a greater tolerance for those who say it is all a money racket.

With no symptoms, I still found it hard to believe I actually had Covid. I tried to get myself a PCR test but people aged four-39 must apply for antigen tests first. I did this, thinking that Covid would long since have left my system by the time they arrived. But, in fairness, they arrived within two days. Five HSE tests, free of charge.

I did one, this time with two blood-red lines appearing after 15 minutes. Positive without a doubt. Bearing in mind I still did not have one symptom, I was shocked. I then tried to apply for a PCR test with no luck. I tried Cavan, Longford, Leitrim, Clare, Westmeath and Limerick with not one test to be got.

My mother, a great one for her Facebook forums and group chats, got wind that if you go on to the HSE website at 12am and opt for Westmeath, you will get an appointment for Athlone testing centre. So I sat up waiting for appointments to become available. Constantly refreshing the page, I thought about the last time I was doing 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 got the message to confirm you had secured your place.

I went through all these stages, but replace excitement with relief. Come 12am on the dot, over 400 appointments became available for two days’ time. Facebook had advised not to select an early slot as an error may occur. Probably due to demand as other people select the first appointment they see. I chose 2pm and got my slot.

I wasn’t going to bother getting a PCR test, not because I didn’t have time to go for it or anything (I find myself with plenty of time these days) but I know that there are many other people who need to get tests to see doctors, to get hospital treatment or for their workplace. Considering I have no symptoms, I was happy to just wait it out at home.

But then I remembered that I hadn’t got my booster, nor couldn’t for three months after testing positive for covid. I don’t know what happens if you get the booster within this time frame but I don’t really intend on finding out. I was worried that restrictions would change and you would need to have your booster to get into gyms, restaurants, to use public transport etc so I decided to get my test. There was a steady flow of people getting tested at Athlone GAA Club however it wasn’t jammed like I expected.

The test came back positive within 48 hours. Similar to most people, since the start of the pandemic, my worst fear was getting the virus. I worried about the effects it would have on me, Long Covid, who I would pass it on to and, honestly, I dreaded the 10 days of isolation.

At the start I listed off loads of stuff I was going to do: Sort out my CV for work placement this summer, start looking for accommodation for placement, spring clean my room, read the three books that have been sitting on my desk for the past four months, get ahead of my college work for the next semester. The list was endless.

Day one and two, there was no stopping me. Five bags of clothes, old makeup and just general crap were filled, all ready for the recycling or the bin. I read a bit, did the odd home workout (throwback to the lockdown days) and finally I succumbed to Netflix's array of films.

All in all, it wasn’t as bad as what I thought it would be but I know a lot of people aren’t lucky enough to be able to say this. I am out of isolation tomorrow and I am thankful for this. I wasn’t going to do this piece on my Covid experience, for some reason I felt like I was doing something wrong by getting Covid.

I read a piece by Orla Muldoon who is a Professor of Psychology at UL on how the government is putting too much emphasis on personal responsibility as a tool for fighting Covid. Using this tactic, you feel irresponsible by getting the virus. I know a lot of people are feeling the same way. The message I received from a friend telling me that I was a close contact also included a lengthy apology, and it wasn’t a text from the HSE because we all know that system has its flaws.

It’s a pandemic, therefore the chances of getting Covid are quite high, especially with cases up on 20,000 a day. My advice would be to not bother wrecking your brain over where you could have contracted it, do your isolation and take it easy. I know a lot of people have the virus at the minute, so I hope everybody is doing okay.

* Gemma Good is from Killeshandra and a second year journalism student in University of Limerick.


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