10 days and 2 ER visits later, sick Michigan woman describes grueling wait for coronavirus test results
WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI – Erin Moore never likes going to the doctor. So when she started feeling sick, she didn’t think much about it.
Her fever came and went within a few days. She rested, took her children to school and daycare on a Monday in early March – but avoided getting out of the car because she was too tired.
Until the fever, fatigue and cough left her wondering: should she get tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus?
The next two weeks were filled with frustration, uncertainty and self-quarantine at Moore’s home in Superior Township – and about 10 days after an ER visit, Moore is still awaiting the results of his nasal swab for determine if she has the disease causing a global crisis.
Moore is likely one of thousands of Americans caught in an overwhelmed and undersupplied health care system that has only recently seen an increase in testing. When Moore first visited a doctor, two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the state. On Monday, March 23, there is more than 1,300.
A 40-year-old independent health and wellness coach, Moore’s first thought was to see her primary care physician, as she noticed she had been sick longer than her usual recovery time for a cold.
She visited her doctor on March 11 – the same day COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. But in her doctor’s office, testing procedures had yet to be worked out, she said. She sat in the waiting room separated from the others, wearing a mask.
That day, her doctor’s office ruled out the flu and strep throat. Moore said she had no recent travel history, nor knowledge of contact with a confirmed case. She was told to go to the emergency room if she suffered from shortness of breath. Until then, she could treat it like an ordinary cough.
“I remember being mad at (a friend) saying, ‘You have to be responsible and socially isolate yourself!’ I think, ‘Everyone tells me it’s a cold. Do I really have to go punish myself?'” Moore said. “When now I tell everyone, ‘I don’t care what you have. . Whether you think it is or not, isolate yourself socially. Go to your room. Stay here.'”
At midnight on Friday March 13, her breathing worsened, she said.
“I woke up completely unable to breathe, like, I just sat up straight in total panic, gasping for air,” Moore said. “I remember waking up in the middle of the darkness in my room almost freaking out. I remember looking around and just trying to breathe, I was trying so hard to breathe. I finally had some kind of breathing, then I kind of coughed.
She wasted no time getting to St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital, where staff retested her for the flu and checked for pneumonia before finally taking a nasal swab to send to a lab, according to his release papers. Hospital staff told her the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would contact her if she tested positive. Moore said she was never able to establish where her specimen was sent for testing.
She would spend the next week waiting in her room, trying to avoid contact with her husband, 5-year-old daughter, or 7-year-old son.
Moore described the week as filled with phone calls to medical professionals looking for her results or seeking answers to questions about symptom progression. She even called US Representative Debbie Dingell to help her find her results.
On Saturday, March 21, she went to the emergency room at the University of Michigan Hospital with heart palpitations, according to discharge records – something the ER doctor and her primary care doctor told her. could mean she was still battling a virus, Moore said.
Her primary care physician told her to stay in isolation because her symptoms were consistent with the disease.
Moore said she was not upset by the loneliness of isolation or the illness itself. She loves being able to journal, read, watch “Grey’s Anatomy” and movies, and FaceTime with her kids while they’re in different parts of the house. Her family takes care of her by bringing food and personalized drawings to a TV tray outside her door.
What upsets her the most is the lack of answers.
“I was away from my family. If it’s negative, I could be with my family,” Moore said. “I have people who need to know because they need to know their job, their whatever. Ultimately, at this point, I just feel very ignored. I feel like a forgotten human.
Moore said Washtenaw County Health Department officials told her her test was collected on a day when there was a huge influx of tests, which may be contributing to the delay. Local hospital systems had just started sending samples to commercial labs on March 13 and were collecting more samples, health department officials confirmed.
Health Department spokeswoman Susan Ringler-Cerniglia said the county is aware of a testing backlog for dozens of cases. The testing and reporting system is shifting from a central state lab, which was used primarily in the first week of the outbreak, to other commercial and local health-provider labs. The backlog is expected to clear over the next few days, and some patients may have waited longer because they were at lower risk of exposure, had milder symptoms, or were not part of an at-risk population.
“Because we’re in a transitional game, the pace isn’t clear,” Ringler-Cerniglia said. “We will have a better idea of the actual speed of testing (once the backlog is cleared). In general, we are aware that some tests are processed very quickly, and some take a week or more.”
Much of Moore’s recovery and isolation has been tolerable thanks to his community: his family, friends and church groups who left groceries on their porches or spoke to him online.
“I’ve prayed to God many times, thanking him for giving it to me and not someone else, because at least I have those support systems and at least I’m strong with him to feel strong at through him,” Moore said.
But until her results come back, she remains isolated, children’s drawings and hot tea left outside her door, recovering from an unconfirmed viral illness.
In addition to washing your hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone can carry the virus. Health officials say you should stay at least 6 feet away from others and work from home, if possible. Take hand sanitizer with youand use disinfectant wipes Where disinfectant spray cleaners on frequently touched surfaces in your home (doorknobs, faucets, counters) and when you go to places like stores.
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