A Tale of Swabs and Swirls :: My Adventure in COVID-19 Testing

Chillin’ like a villain, minding my own business… just me and Detective Stabler on a Wednesday night… and the job calls. It’s 2020, so I already knew what I was about to hear.  Yeah, I’ve been COVID-19 exposed.

A Tale of Swabs and Swirls :: My Adventure in COVID-19 TestingThe Call 

Suppressing my inner Enneagram Type 6, I played it cool and responded succinctly to the questions. I listened. Instructions. Test. Remote work for 14 days. Isolation. Symptoms. Test sites. Contacts. Affirmations of understanding. Good job Hancock. I was still holding down my 6 like a champ. 

TBH {To Be Honest – if you aren’t adept at Gen Z vernacular} – I wasn’t particularly worried. I prepped for my return to the indoors and planned to test a few days later to decrease the likelihood of receiving a false negative.

The COVID-19 Game Plan

As my COVID-19 testing day moved closer, I worked on a game plan for the event. {Yes, I am entirely extra like that.} I fancied the self-serve site that promised 15 minute results. The day before, I drove out and scouted the location. Circling the facility twice, I paid careful attention to the entry point, line formation, and the spacing between the entry and test area. I packed a go bag. Blanket, laptop, water bottles, fruit, extra car charger, yellow legal tablet and writing utensils. The only item missing from my bag… astronaut diapers; I would come to regret this planning failure.

In the spirit of 2020, all this planning would end up being entirely worthless. After a 5:45 AM arrival, I waited until 9 AM and watched as the first three cars entered, tested and left the site.  And then the heavens opened up releasing ALL the rains… and the gates closed. After a two hour wait in the mini-monsoon, I burned out. On to the next spot.

There would be two more sites visited before there would be a happy ending. Let’s just fast forward to the fourth.

The Pre Game

Walked in the office. Gave them my ID and insurance. Filled out the top half of a form. Finally pottied… because no astronaut diapers. Waited less than half an hour and was called back to the exam room. The nurse took my blood pressure – slightly elevated but given my day… not surprising. Temp… normal. Dude was a superstar. He kindly explained the process. I’d seen the diagrams online showing the meter {only a slight exaggeration} long swab and how far it has to go into your nostril. I told him we didn’t need to talk about it and that I was going to close my eyes and to just go for it. I laid down on my side and tried to find my happy place.

What is It Like – aka – Are You Sure You Want to Know?

BOOM. Swab entered my right nostril. It burrowed deeply into the endless tunnel previously known as my nostril. It hooked a left turn and found a new path. And when I thought the swab was going to break all they way through the back of my skull, he found a whole new level of deeper in my head. The swab drilled through the crust, the mantle, the outer core until it hit the inner core. And then… he swirled the swab. SWIRLED THE SWAB. My eyes rolled to the back of my head.

Y’all. I had no idea there was that much room in a nasal cavity. The nasal cavity… is like the entrance into Narnia. You think it’s just a wardrobe, a compartment with a defined area – but no… there is a whole other world in there. A WHOLE OTHER WORLD. IN YOUR NOSE. With snow and mythical creatures and crap. I am certain there was a small fawn on the end of the swab at removal.

But it wasn’t over yet. Because there are two nostrils. My psyche fractured. My spirit exited my body and floated near the top of the room. I am certain it was the only way to guarantee my survival. From above, I watched the swab journey through my whole head for the second time; spirit and body reuniting only upon completion of the process.

Life as I know it is now separated into Pre and Post Swab. 

How Did the COVID-19 Test Feel?

The nurse told me the feeling would be akin to having water up your nose in the swimming pool. Ummm hmmm. If the water was a solid with a firm texture and a mind of its own determined to scrub the inside of your head. Then yes, it could be like having water up your nose. Maybe. My nose and brain are currently only speaking to me in the form of four letter words.

Did it Hurt?

On a scale of 1 to Childbirth, the pain the COVID-19 test caused was about a 4 for me. I’m not sure I would call it pain, but it was definitely severe discomfort. The feeling was so totally unnatural and foreign that it gets bonus points for being super unsettling and diabolically disturbing. 

Swirl on This

In closing, I will leave you with the following points to swirl over::

God must have opened the heavens and closed the gates because he knew there was no way my scary squeamish self would have been able to send that swab on a journey through my whole brain and back. Props to those of you who can. You win. I’m tapping out on that one. Mercy.

My nurse was the bomb-diggety. He was everything one could ask for in a nurse having to perform an absolutely unpleasant uncomfortable guaranteed to make the patient unhappy experience. First responders kick all the booty.

There is absolutely no amount of bomb-diggety that will make that experience one that I’d ever ever ever e-v-e-r want to do again. 

To those of you fortunate enough to have escaped the swabbing thus far… keep up the good work, overachievers.

And to those of you that have survived the swab and swirl and lived to tell… solidarity dear soldiers. Solidarity.

Stay safe out there friends; this COVID-19 story isn’t over yet.


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Joi was born and raised in San Antonio. After a brief pit stop at the University of Texas in Austin, Joi moved to Houston in 1994 and began checking boxes off her never ending to do list. During this time and in no particular order, Joi taught a little bit of everything between first and eighth grades, got married and then divorced, completed grad school, birthed a few babies – Ferris {November 1997}, Warren {December 1999} and Laylah {March 2006}, moved an old lady into her home – Granny {January 1925} started working in Human Resources, served an excessive amount of time (on boards, in booster clubs, team momming) as a crazy sports momma, and learned a lot of life lessons. Joi is known for her unabashed honesty, always present sense of humor and her #TeamTooMuch style of doing everything. On most days, you can find her caught up in her love/hate relationship with politics, feeding her Facebook addiction, or counting the number of days until her last child graduates from high school.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Wow…. what an adventure! And yes, I’ll take a word from the wise and stay bunkered down. Thanks Joi, great read.

      • Having had one of these myself (thankfully negative), I nearly peed my pants laughing at this oh-so-accurate description (“small fawn”…this will make me giggle days from now). Thank you for bringing levity and candor to a very serious topic. Everyone stay safe, be kind, and please wear a mask! ♥️

  2. From another Eneagram sizer- thank you for this detailed post. I have been going over all the worst case scenarios in my mind and want to learn every detail of what to expect. The test scares me worse than the virus🤣

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