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What it's like to be tested for COVID-19: Jess and Ben share their stories

Wednesday 30 September 2020

A nurse in full protective gear performs a COVID test on a woman in her car.
It can help to know what to expect from a COVID-19 test before you go.

This article was written during the Queensland response to the COVID-19 pandemic and reflects the information available at the date of publication. Please check the Queensland Government COVID-19 webpage for updated information and current health advice regarding COVID-19 in Queensland. All information was correct as per the experience of the interviewee at the time of their interview.  

Every single Queenslander has been touched by the COVID-19 pandemic this year. Whether restrictions have altered your ability to work, you’ve had to cancel plans to see family and friends, you’ve needed to run school at home for your children, or you’ve just been more vigilant with handwashing, each and every one of us has been affected.

Because Queenslanders have worked so hard to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19 in our state, most of us have not directly come into contact with the virus so far, even if it has changed how we live day-to-day. But some Queenslanders have been directly affected by the virus, either because they’ve caught it, because they’ve had to undertake essential travel, or because they work in our hospitals and health systems testing and treating people with COVID-19.

This is one of a series of stories of everyday Queenslanders who have had real experiences with COVID-19. We wanted to share these stories to help Queenslanders understand what it’s been like working on the frontlines of this pandemic and what it’s been like to be truly caught up in the virus’s path. These stories are a record of the hard work that has been done and will continue to be done in Queensland, and a reminder about why we need to stay vigilant when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Testing for peace of mind

More than one million Queenslanders have fronted up for a COVID-19 test. We asked some of them what the experience was like.

For Jess, getting the test was nerve-wracking, but necessary.

“My daughter came home from day care with a runny nose and a cold, and she lovingly coughed right onto me, as toddlers do. I had really mild symptoms, but by that point I’d started going back to my office a few days and I was most worried about who I could pass it onto if it was COVID.”

Knowing a test would be easier on her than her one-year-old, Jess booked a telehealth appointment with her GP and was instructed to come that day to their drive-through testing clinic.

“I actually made my husband drive me because I was nervous,” says Jess. “Previously my brother and his family had had the test, and I knew what it entailed. I’d heard horror stories that it was this really long, horrible stick that they stuck up your nose.”

But in the end, Jess says that the test wasn’t really a big deal.

“The thought of it was overwhelming, but the experience was pretty quick and not really painful. I’d compare it to plucking an eyebrow hair. The doctor congratulated me because my eyes didn’t even water!”

For Jess, the peace of mind that came with her negative result was worth the slight discomfort of the test. She now recommends other Queenslanders listen to the health advice and get tested if they have any symptoms.

“Everyone’s experience is different, but it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be, and it’s over really quickly,” she says. “Being reassured that you’re not going to pass it on to anyone else if you do have COVID is a really good feeling.”

A sign at a fever clinic reading 'COVID-19 screening clinic'.

Taking your child to get tested

When Benjamin’s nine-year-old son got sick, he knew he needed to get him tested for COVID-19.

“Our two-year-old had been a bit sick, you know, snotty and things, and I think he picked it up from her. We decided it would be better to get him tested first, because who wants to test a two-year-old?”

Benjamin’s son has asthma, and so any respiratory illness needs to be taken very seriously. Their GP had set up a drive-through clinic, which meant that the doctor could come out to the car to assess his condition, rather than having him come into the clinic with other patients.

“The GP checked him and how he was breathing and things like that, then they said, yes, you will need to go and get tested. So, we went to the pathology clinic.”

Benjamin had read up on what the test would involve so he could prepare his son for the experience. He told him they would test his throat and nose, and that the staff would be wearing special protective gear. He said having this knowledge prepared his son and himself to not be nervous about the test.

“The only thing that he was a bit surprised by was that when they put it up his nose they twirled it a bit. He was like, woah! But it was fine.”

Afterwards, Benjamin and his family had to wait at home to find out what his son’s result would be.

“It was nerve-wracking thinking that he could have it, which would mean our two-year-old could have it, too,” says Ben. “How do you isolate children?”

Luckily for the family, they wouldn’t need to find out.

“His test result came back negative, which was a relief,” says Ben. “It was a relief both because it meant we weren’t going to have spread the virus, but also because of his asthma, it could have had bad consequences for him in particular.”

Ben knows that taking your child for a COVID-19 test might be nerve-wracking but recommends reading up on what the test involves so that you can confidently talk about what’s going to happen and help your child feel calm.

“It really helped to be able to tell him what was going to happen, what people would look like, why we were doing it,” says Ben. “It needs to be done, and you can help your child through it.”

You can read more about how COVID-19 testing is performed in Queensland, along with tips for talking about testing with your kids, in our blog Everything you ever wanted to know about testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) in Queensland.

Last updated: 22 September 2020