By Violet Kieu
Day one: I awoke with a cough. Once innocent, now implicit with disaster. My 4-year-old snuggled on my right. My husband on my left. He coughed, too. I called the local hospital switchboard. They said to attend the emergency department in person. The guidelines stated one clinical symptom and one epidemiological factor would warrant a swab. I had a cough and I was a health care worker. A doctor in obstetrics and gynaecology who had just commenced a fellowship in infertility.
The old outpatients unit was quiet; it had now been converted to a fever clinic. Three nurses sat behind the counter and one other prospective patient was explaining her sore throat, in detail. Plastic chairs were spaced apart. Surgical masks, hand sanitizer, stickers with numbers only were available to identify us as patients. I was led to another room of doctors now, each with a computer-on-wheels, in their canary yellow gowns, orange face-masks and baby blue shoe covers. Some with glasses, for their myopia, their own. I was proud of my hospital. I was sure the young doctor who took my history had been my medical student, one normal day many years ago.
A brave nurse swabbed the back of each of my nostrils. My neurons raged on fire. An electric shock to the brain and a bitter taste in my mouth. A taste of fear and ongoing dullness to my heart.
Day two: Home isolation with two kids is normality, punctuated with panic crushing despondency. I checked media obsessively: medical Facebook groups, news streams, WhatsApp chat with friends from London and Singapore, from my hometown of Melbourne. Disney+ was streaming on the TV; I wondered how many other families around the world were grateful for the small mercy of Frozen 2.
It afforded me time to do on-line shopping. Essentials. Grocer deliveries of veggies, fruit, milk, butter and a dozen eggs. Hand sanitiser from boutique gin distilleries. I bought some Australian Dry gin too. Who knew how long this quarantine was going to take. I bought facemasks too, both surgical and n95. Contentious, I know. There was concern, however, that PPE (personal protective equipment) was short for healthcare workers, and that such high numbers of doctors and nurses were getting sick on the frontline. In the trenches. At the virulent war. I bought 50 surgical masks and 20 n95 ones. Who knows if this is too much, too little, or the Goldilocks amount – just right.
We did an inventory of our pantry. A stray packet of chocolate brownies was found. Thus, we made chocolate brownies in red, blue and yellow cupcake patties with pink 100s&1000s. We ate them out on our back deck. Our youngest, 15-months-old, had just started walking for a month. She was delighted stomping around and screaming at the doggies. Back inside the kitchen, the floor was littered with colourful sprinkles. Ongoing domestic routine filled the day, now punctuated with mindfulness in the moment. Look – time to wash the dishes, sweep the floor, do the laundry, have a bath. Washing the girls, organising their dresses, blowing bubbles on the deck. Distracting them. Sometimes even distracting myself.
Day three: You DO NOT have coronavirus. Was the message beeped to my husband’s phone in the morning. He is also a doctor. Thus, I waited patiently for mine.
I waited hours. It had been more than the 48hours, and they said they would contact me via text. My eldest daughter was complaining. I want to go outside to the park! I want to ride my scooter! Me too, I though, I want to not have corona.
I called the infectious disease unit. They said they had to take my details and get a senior to call me back. Meanwhile, a bright sunny day, beckoned from outside. The phone ran, and the doctor apologised. I’m really sorry, someone didn’t write your phone number on the swab request, so we couldn’t contact you.
She then texted me the result:
You DO NOT have coronavirus.
I was so glad I called then. Because an immediate problem had been solved and I could take the girls to the park. The 4-year old donned on her helmet, a PPE of sorts, and raced on her light blue scooter (Elsa coloured, of course).
I took them to the park, on a beautiful autumnal day, passing by little oak trees and acorns on the ground. For now, it was okay to be normal, to have the biggest worry to keep the toddler from eating sticks and leaves on the grass. Whist keeping our distance from the other children at the park, we were no longer isolated.
I WhatsApped my co-fellow at my hospital.
Not infected! I said, with relief.
He messaged back.
Fantastic. Also busy. I’ve done one of your positive pregnancy scans.
He had scanned one of my IVF patients. A patient whom I had managed her cycle through medications, follicle tracking and an embryo transfer. She was now clinically pregnant, at 6 weeks and 4 days old, with a visible heartbeat. What a win. Life, created in the time of COVID-19.
Life in lockdown. Womankind approached its community to write about life in lockdown around the globe, notably a three-day diary of everyday life under the threat of COVID-19. Womankind is publishing these stories freely to show how the pandemic is affecting women from all over the globe - from New York, to Barcelona to Glastonbury.
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