I am case 667. No, this is not a belated April Fools’ joke.
On 25th March, I woke up at 2am with a throbbing headache and felt an unfamiliar tightness in my chest. I walked from my bed to 5m away to get a cup of water and I felt shortness of breath. I was not panting or hyperventilating, but I felt distinctly a slight difficulty in breathing.
The first thought that came to mind was, “OMG, aren’t these symptoms of COVID-19?”
Since the spread of COVID-19 in Singapore in late-January, I have been cautious. Cautious in the sense of washing and disinfecting my hands regularly, not going to crowded places and even canceling my 40th birthday celebration in February to avoid bringing together large crowds. And since mid-February, we have implemented onsite and offsite team arrangements in our company. Jamie and I are on the offsite team and hence we have not been back to our office nor met up with any of our client-facing team members since mid-Feb.
Waking up later that morning, I decided that I must visit my GP. After examining me and understanding my travel history, she immediately wrote me a letter of referral to be tested in NCID.
When I arrived at NCID at 6pm, I was put into a queue with black crosses marked on the floor to make sure that we are at least 1m away from each other. After being sorted preliminarily by the nurses in full PPE (personal protective equipment) suit at the queue, I was ushered into a holding room with 20-30 tables and chairs, again at least 1m away from each other. There is a piece of paper, a pencil as well as a bottle of water on each table. The paper is to collect personal details and travel history. There is also a long list of places that previously confirmed cases have been to in the past. The paper is clearly marked restricted i.e. no photos are to be taken. I waited in turn for my ECG, X-Ray and nose swab taken.
The doctors and nurses were always positive and upbeat when asking me questions or conducting the tests. In fact, I was surprised at how bubbly they all were given the fact that they have to deal with so many patients every hour, every day. Blankets were provided if you were feeling cold. The room was rather cold actually. And since it was dinner time, dinner was provided as well – you can choose between bread or congee.
The nose swab is indeed as uncomfortable as you might have read about. They poke a long cotton bud tip into your nostril. And usually, you would end up tearing as a result of the discomfort. The worst thing is when you thought it was all finally over, they will have to poke it into your other nostril. (Ouch!)
As my X-ray was clear, they sent me off and told me to wait at home for my swab results. If it was positive, I would get a call within 24 hours. If it was negative, they would SMS me within 48 hours.
The next day, I received a call at 1pm. Honestly, by this time, I was quite confident that I was going to be tested negative as I have cleared both the ECG and X-ray tests.
“Madam Violet Lim, I am calling from NCID. I would like to inform you that your test result is positive.”
I could not believe my ears. My heart sank. I was in shock.
“Madam Violet, are you there? Are you ok?”
Yes, I muttered.
She proceeded to comfort me and told me that everything was ok. She was going to send an ambulance to pick me up within 2 hours. She advised me to pack my bag with at least 2 sets of clothes, my toiletries, and any other necessities. (In case you are wondering, yes, of course, I packed my work laptop!)
While on the phone, I drew the “positive” symbol to my hubby who just came out of the bathroom. He was stunned and stood still for a while.
After that, we both tried to come to terms with the situation as best we could and I packed hurriedly. We summoned the kids and quickly explained the situation. They too were shocked. We calmed them down and I told all of them – hubby and kids, to get tested soon, as they potentially could have gotten it from me.
Within the hour, the ambulance was here. The ambulance driver came out of the ambulance to assist me in the ambulance. He was in full PPE suit. It was quite a surreal sight. Once I boarded the ambulance, he told me politely that I have to sit at the end of the ambulance to keep a 1m distance away from him. He was very apologetic and shared that it was the procedure. I assured him that it was ok, and I completely understand.
My ambulance driver is Mr. Nasir who is 64 years old. He has 6 grandchildren and he has been driving COVID-19 suspected and confirmed patients since the outbreak. He shared with me that even though there’s a certain degree of risk in his job, he does it because he wants to do his part to help and contribute. Even though it was a short trip to NCID from my home, Mr. Nasir made the whole trip so comforting. He kept telling me that everything was going to be alright and that I would be well in no time. He helped me with my luggage, he told me funny stories… I think he knew I must be nervous and he was doing all he could to help me feel better. And for this, I am extremely grateful.
I was escorted up to Ward 5F which would be my “home” for who knows how long… Once I was in my room, the young and energetic nurses came by to register me for admission. They also gave me an orientation of my ward. I met my roommate, a friendly lady who was admitted just after me.
I changed into the hospital gown and sat on my hospital bed still reeling from shock and disbelief. I couldn’t process and believe what has just happened in the last 36 hours. I did everything within my control I thought. And this was the last place I expected to be in.
At 9pm, a good friend who knew about my situation messaged me.
“Hey, are you case 667?”
and sent me a copy of the list of cases for that day.
I looked at the list and the description. Yup, case number 667. That’s me.