I take COVID-19 seriously.  I wear a mask.  I social distance.  I wash my hands.  I sanitize.  And because I do all those things, I never expected to be taking a rapid test for COVID-19.  However, there I was on Thursday night.  My experience was frustrating, uncomfortable, and frightful from beginning to end.  But the words that came out of the nurse's mouth were most concerning to me.

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I'm sharing my story knowing that a lot of great people in New Jersey have had a similar experience.  COVID-19 has been the "boogeyman" over the past 12-months.  It's brought a lot of pain, frustration, anger, and sadness to many.  I've heard a lot about feelings, concerns, and thoughts from countless listeners, friends, family, and folks in our Jersey Shore community.  And far too many people have perished.  My great hope is that you know we're all going through this together and we WILL overcome.

On Thursday afternoon, I walked out of lunch with my family and had to stop.  I felt weak, tired, and congested.  I didn't think much of it.  About an hour later, I found out that someone I know had tested positive for COVID-19.  I hadn't seen them since the previous Friday, almost a week earlier.  I had engaged in a conversation with them for about 15 minutes, wearing a face mask, about 10-feet away.  Should I be concerned?  Probably not but I needed to be sure.

To be safe I started investigating testing options.  It dawned on me.  After a year of COVID-19, I would be joining the millions who had been tested.  I had hoped to make it to a vaccine without having to worry about being tested or being positive.  I found a place nearby that provided "rapid" tests.  When I got there they explained that they had a long wait, they would call or text me when it was my turn, but it might not be till Friday morning.

For a second, I accepted it and started driving home.  Thinking about my family and their safety, I pulled the car over.  I thought, "I need to know now.  This can't wait."  I found another medical facility about 10 miles away.  I called them.  They assured me that there was a wait but that they would see me that night.  I got there, filled out paperwork, and went back to my car for 45 minutes.  My phone rang.  It was my time to come in.

The staff was helpful and friendly.  They took my vital signs.  All good.  They asked about my symptoms and about if I had been in contact with anyone with COVID-19.  The answers to that were not all good.  My circumstance did warrant a rapid test.

Image created by Russell Tate. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives
Image created by Russell Tate. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives

The nurse stuck a nasal swab up my right nostril and followed it with a poke up the left nostril.  It was extremely uncomfortable.  It made my eyes tear up.  She said the results would take 15 minutes and then a doctor would be back with results.

A lot of thoughts raced through my mind as I waited.  They included:

  • What if I'm positive?  I'll be separated from my family, friends, and co-workers for a couple of weeks.
  • What if I'm one of the folks that have a tough time with the virus?  What if I don't make it?  Morbid, but I went there.  I determined I should start working on a plan for my family for a long, healthy, happy life without me.  Get the finances in order.  Get a list of user names and passwords in order.  Share my love for everyone in my life with them.  Let them know how I feel about them.
  • I miss my Mom.  I haven't seen her in 20 months.  She was supposed to visit and meet her new grandson last spring.  That couldn't happen due to COVID-19.
  • I miss my Dad.  He passed away in 2018.

The thoughts weren't good.  I looked at my watch.  It had been about 15 minutes.  Then I heard a nurse outside my door say "2 is positive."  My.  Heart.  Sunk.  I was devastated.  The uncertainty became certain.  Within seconds, the doctor burst in.  He looked at me and asked how I was doing.  I paused and said sheepishly, "ok?"  He looked down at a piece of paper and asked my name.  I said, "James."  He looked back down at the paper with a puzzled look and glanced up and said, "Hi James.  I'll be back in a few minutes."  What?!  I was so confused and frustrated.  Were the results super bad?  Can you get a COVID-19 test that tells you yours is severe? Was that it?  Maybe it was really awful and he needed to double-check the results?

About 5 minutes passed and the doctor returned.  This time he started with, "you're negative."  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  A wave of relief washed over me.  I asked if they were 100%.  He said a positive was right about 98% of the time.  Unfortunately, it's not as strong with negatives...there are false negatives.  So, I decided to get a regular test as well.  The downside, another set of pokes to the inside of my brain.  The upside, confirmation in 3-5 days.  I don't want to put anyone else at risk, so I'll happily wait for that before I go spending time around others again.

I’m lucky. I know millions have left a doctor’s office with a positive diagnosis. The fear must be awful. The isolation. The sickness. The pain. I feel so bad for anyone going through that or has made it through. I wish nothing but the best for everyone. Stay safe and healthy friends...and hopefully, you never need any swabs stuck way up your nose!

Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.

READ ON: See the States Where People Live the Longest

Stacker used data from the 2020 County Health Rankings to rank every state's average life expectancy from lowest to highest. The 2020 County Health Rankings values were calculated using mortality counts from the 2016-2018 National Center for Health Statistics. The U.S. Census 2019 American Community Survey and America's Health Rankings Senior Report 2019 data were also used to provide demographics on the senior population of each state and the state's rank on senior health care, respectively.

Read on to learn the average life expectancy in each state.

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