Today has been a bit of a challenge. Our daughter Rachael came down with flu-like symptoms yesterday: wet cough, tickly throat, running nose and a temperature that started at about 99 and then promptly went up to 101.5 for all day and all night. Normally, we would have simply said, “It’s the flu,” and done all the flu-related stuff everyone does – more fluids, bedrest, etc. However, we are suddenly not living in normal times and the potential for this to be not a “regular” flu but the highly dreaded coronavirus was at least a possibility. That’s what made today very different than other days when my kids have been sick.
The day started with a round of texts from family members checking in on Rachael’s status. When Sarah (our family physician daughter) heard that Rachael’s temperature was maintaining at 101.5 and edging on up to 102, then she recommended Rachael be tested. She provided the name of an Urgent Care in Burbank that was supposed to have the Coronavirus test kits. So, I called those folks up and they were very nice. Yes, we could bring Rachael in for an initial flu test and meeting with the doctor. If the flu test came back negative, then the doctor would let us know his/her recommendation regarding coronavirus testing. Or, we could have an in-house visit where they came to us, but the earliest was March 20th (this is the 14th) and for either in-house or in-office coronavirus testing, the results would not be available for about a week. The office visit was $130 for anyone without insurance or, like us, insurance they didn’t take. We have Kaiser so this Urgent Care would be out-of-network and therefore on our own dime. The home visit was $195. Quest Labs would bill later for the actual coronavirus test results, and, no, the young woman had no idea how much that test might be.
Ray’s immediate response was, “Do you want to be riding in a car with Rachael for the 1 1/2 hours it’s going to take to get to Burbank and back?” That seemed like a reasonable concern. He also asked, “Do you want to be sitting in a waiting room with a whole bunch of other people who are sick when you’re in the over 60 “elderly” group they’re saying are more at risk?” Again, not a bad question.
I decided to look for a place closer to home and also ask how busy they were.
I found one five minutes away and they said if we came right up, nobody was there at the moment.
Rachael and I got ready and were there in about ten minutes.
After paying for a flu and strep test, $120, we were escorted back to a room. Rachael was already wearing a face mask from home, but they gave me one as soon as I headed back to the treatment rooms. The PA came in, asked the usual questions about travel and the type of symptoms Rachael has been having and then did a nasal swab test for flu and took a throat culture. Fifteen minutes later the doctor came in with the results: Rachael had Influenza B.
Rachael and I were both greatly relieved – overjoyed is not too big a word for both of our reactions – and I immediately texted our immediate family who expressed that same feeling. Now, Rachael is in bed dealing with a “normal” flu and we are all breathing a lot easier.
What I took away from my experience today:
- Don’t wait to come up with a plan related to getting sick. Have one in place. Find out from your doctor now what the protocol is for people who start feeling flu-like symptoms. If we had gone through Kaiser, I would have had three options: 1) go to a very busy Urgent Care, 2) go to a very busy emergency room, or 3) make an appointment with my doctor who would examine me and then order the testing done. Any of those cases would have sent me out into the world to interact with other people when I had a fever. Clearly, when they get the “drive-by” testing spots in place, then that will eliminate this problem, but the drive-by locations that are currently opening are emphasizing that you need to have spoken to your doctor first before coming. There is no simply “dropping in” for a test. Kaiser offers emailing one’s doctor and also has a 24/7 nurse that I could call. I emailed my doctor who has still not responded, and I talked to a nurse who basically said, “If your daughter’s symptoms get worse, then she needs to speak to her doctor.” That’s fine for many people, but what about those who don’t officially have a doctor?
- The woman at the Urgent Care where we ended up going told us that unless Rachael had a persistent fever of at least 103, then she probably had the regular flu and it would pass. She said they were happy to give her the flu test but the fee was $120. What about people who don’t have $120 to spend to determine if they have regular flu or coronavirus?
I know the CDC is recommending staying at home and riding out the symptoms unless they become very severe. But determining whether it’s the flu or the coronavirus seems pretty important so that everyone has a better idea which direction one might be headed. Plus, there is a nagging fear when you’re not sure what’s happening. If there were a lot of people who needed to determine whether they had the flu or coronavirus, I can see very easily how difficult navigating the medical system might become.
As for us, we are simply grateful that Rachael’s illness fell on the side of the normal flu. The truth is that even if she had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, she would have probably ended up just fine. Young people seem to bounce back fairly readily with this type of virus. The concern would be more for us “elderly” folks who are over sixty. Ray’s respiratory system is his weak spot so there would be a bit of extra worry for him. Socially isolating as much as possible seems like the best idea at the moment. We were lucky this turned out so well, but it could have just as easily gone the other way. The transmission of the coronavirus is so easy. One man in New Rochelle, New York was responsible for the infection of 100 people, all his closest family and friends, without even realizing he was exposing them. We will all be best served by staying home and riding this wave to its natural end.
As for us, our girl is already feeling better and so are we. On this day in our little world, I am pleased to report that we are happy and healthy. Hallelujah for that!
I’ll be talking with you again tomorrow.