An Auckland mother tells how her worst fears were realised when the Covid-19 test that her son took on his 22nd birthday came back positive.
Five days after my son woke up complaining of a headache, he learned he had Covid-19.
Within the space of 10 minutes on Tuesday morning two phone calls – one from the doctor’s surgery where the test was taken and the other from a public health official – confirmed the swab was positive.
I was half-expecting, half-dreading it.
Three days had passed since I had taken my sick 22-year-old to the makeshift testing station in front of a Mt Eden doctor’s surgery.
He had woken up on the second full day of lockdown with a headache. Around the corners of his mask I could see his cheeks were flushed. He asked for pain relief.
Over the next two days the headache didn’t leave. He dosed up on paracetamol.
Then he started coughing. It was a hacking cough that steadily worsened. I could hear him through the walls of the house at night.
On the day he took his Covid test, he turned 22.
I cooked a special breakfast wrap that Saturday morning, the sort of over-the-top affair when your boy is spending a second celebration in lockdown in a bubble with his mum.
The wrap was nothing short of a taste explosion of yumminess from the smoked chipotle flavoured outer, to the fried bacon and eggs, fresh basil, avocado and smoked grated cheese sandwiched on the inside. The trouble was he couldn’t taste much at all.
I thought the mochaccino using a double espresso shot might be too strong. He said he didn’t notice.
Then a new symptom: his body temperature soared feverishly high.
Inside our house I was wearing three layers, including a woollen jersey, and was totally comfortable.
He was in a T-shirt and sweating.
With testing stations slammed close to home after an outbreak at several nearby high schools, I managed to get a spot at a doctor’s surgery in a suburb 10 minutes drive away.
There was no location of interest that we could point to, just a handful of cold-like symptoms to justify getting a swab. We both wore masks – and had been doing so since he walked out of his room feeling poorly.
Before the nurse put the swab up his nose she warned him it would be uncomfortable.
She didn’t lie.
When we got home we ate chocolate ice cream with topping. It was 10.45am.
A new obsession developed watching emerging locations of interest on the Government health website as we tried to piece together the infection puzzle.
If he had caught Covid, where or how did it happen?
Finally on Monday a potential exposure site coincided with movements at the weekend.
On the previous Sunday between 1pm and 3pm he had walked through West City Shopping Mall in Henderson and to the Countdown supermarket to buy crispy noodles, gummy worms and an energy drink.
At some point he inhaled the aerosol of a Covid-infected person.
And so, on day six of lockdown, my son became one of 41 newly confirmed cases.
The public health response was quick. Soon after speaking to the doctor where the test was taken – he had the dubious honour of being the testing site’s first positive case – a contact tracer from the regional health service called asking for a detailed interview on movements, his symptoms and contacts.
He sat in front of his computer and prepared to list every place he had been since becoming infectious. But rather than trawl through a fortnight of travel around Auckland, the contact tracer just wanted to know where he was two days before symptoms started. It wasn’t hard – he had been at home. I was his sole close contact. He gave the tracer my details.
The contact tracer said he would be transferred to a quarantine centre at Jet Park later that day, staying in isolation until 72 hours after his symptoms had stopped and at least 10 days since his symptoms started.
A medical team would check his symptoms regularly and would determine when he would be able to leave.
He was relieved to learn he could take his desktop computer.
Then I got a phone call.
I went through a detailed questionnaire with the same contact tracer about my health, was given codes to prioritise test results, and a phone number if I encountered problems. As a close contact, I am considered high risk and must isolate for 14 days. I also need to fill out a health survey every day to check on my symptoms.
I have already had my first swab.
It’s an unnerving time. You question any and every niggle in your body, wondering if it is an early symptom.
I’ve noticed my throat is slightly sore. Given the timeline of my son’s infection, I’m hoping I’ve dodged the bullet.
But perhaps I’m being optimistic. The Covid tester certainly thought so.
“Take care. It’s inevitable you’re going to get it,” she said, waving as I pulled out of the carpark.
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