Surviving The Swab: Louis Fowler Gets The Covid-19 Test

This past Saturday, Trump was loudly braying to a small crowd of backwards sycophants in Tulsa about “slowing down” Covid-19 testing to lower the numbers, just as members of his own advance staff had tested positive for the virus mere hours before his arrival.

As I sat there, listening to the (fake?) news, I pursed my clammy hands together, nervously.

You see, the day after his speech, I was finally going to get my own Coronavirus test done, for better or worse. I’m going back under the knife sometime this week and, in order to get cleared for surgery, I have to make sure there are no traces Covid-19 in my system. And to do that, a hospital official has to administer a nasal swab.

As I drove around OU Medical Center on Sunday morning, looking for the drive-thru testing station, my stomach gurgled in a mixture of fear and anxiety. Even though I probably should be, at this point and time, I wasn’t as afraid of the virus itself as much as I am of things going up my notoriously dry nasal canals, where the slightest touch often causes nosebleeds that just don’t stop, sometimes for hours.

This wait was made interminable when it was discovered I went to the wrong testing area, an empty parking lot in front of a closed building. Through an irritating series of channels, including phone calls and security guards, I finally found out where I was supposed to go, in the parking garage of the surgical building.

I pulled in to the correct lot; an attendant came out and took my name and identification, as a car waited in front of me. I nervously shuffled my feet as I was given a mildly complicated series of instructions through the parking garage to the testing center of my final destination, silently praying that the administering official is a gentle sort that won’t violently shove that swab right up in there:

Luckily, it was a nurse who actually knew me, telling me straight up that the test is definitely uncomfortable and will probably make my eyes water as she swabs both of my nostrils, for ten seconds each. She also told me to lean back and don’t jerk forward, presumably because I could lodge the stick somewhere up there, necessitating extra surgery just to remove it. Presumably.

Gingerly as she possibly could be, she placed the first swab up my nose, the cotton head feeling scratchier and scratchier the further up it went. She slowly started to spin it around; my joints tightened and my fingernails dug into the armrest as she began counting “10…9…8…” and on down.

For a moment, it reminded me of the time when I was a kid in a public pool; I did a monster flip off the diving board and, as I hit the water, my shirt wrapped around my head. I thrashed and gasped in aquatic confusion to reach the surface, eventually ripping the shirt off and trying to suck in every bit of oxygen available.

She repeated this with the other side of my nose, the finished relief turning back into caustic panic as the ten-second count began; eventually, the evacuation of the swab left me with a burning sensation that I can only describe as the equivalent of taking a few snorts of pepper up the nose, leading to a comical period as sneezes repeatedly tease you, never once coming.

The worst part over, I went to a 7-Eleven to splash cold water on my face—like she said, my eyes were watery and red. I looked deeply at the reflection in the mirror and was hit with a new reality: what if the test comes back positive? I mean, it probably won’t…but what if it does?

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.