We got An Antibody Test in NYC On Our 41st Day of Quarantine and This is What it Was Like

I recently scrolled past an article on why people who are still going out to get groceries, go for essential exercise, etc. should not be saying they’re in quarantine. But I didn’t read it so I’m still calling this quarantine. Actually at first, I think I did know the difference between social distancing, quarantine, and self isolation, but 42 days into whatever this shit is, I don’t care anymore.

About a week ago, my doctor’s office sent an email saying they were now offering antibody tests. I made an appointment for Dave & I and since they were 15 minutes apart, I figured we would be out of there quickly. Boy was I wrong.

So after making the appointment online, someone called me at 8AM the next morning to get all of our insurance details and confirm. The day after that, I spoke to someone again about my insurance and received a confirmation email. Friday afternoon at 4.55 pm I received a voicemail saying they need to reschedule. I tried to call back three times and could not get through to anyone (seeing as it was now after 5pm on Friday) and their voicemail box was full. Dave hadn’t heard anything about his appointment so we decided to both go.

We decided to walk across & uptown to the doctor’s office, a quick 35 minute walk. Except Dave forgot I hadn’t been awake before 8AM since like February so we made a late start out the door at 7.35 (sorry Dave). We walked for about 15 minutes before we hailed a cab, as we knew there was no chance we would be there by 8AM. It actually took a long time to catch a cab in NYC, not because they were all full, but because there were just none. When we finally got into a cab, it was the worst smelling (also the worst kind-you know the sort of van ones with the sliding doors you have to like climb into?)

Genuinely, it smelled like the driver was chain smoking stale cigarettes, it was awful.

Luckily, we were over halfway there and it was a quick cab ride (and a whopping $11) to get there. We arrived exactly at 8, and checked in. It was seamless for Dave, however I, a patient of the practice, did not have an appointment. I showed them the confirmation email and told them I didn’t get a voicemail (ok I did but I couldn’t call back to reschedule and it was so last minute and I lied, a little, ok I’m sorry). While Dave filled out paperwork I sat there nervously hoping they would be able to squish me in.

Despite us arriving at 8AM for an 8.15 appointment, Dave didn’t go in until 8.45. We were one of three couples, plus another rando in the corner. Other people came and went, but the waiting room remained relatively quiet. There were three girls at the front desk, plus two doctors, plus a PA plus two (might have only been one) nurses, plus two med techs. So it was a full house inside, besides being generally quiet in the waiting room.

Time came and went after Dave went in and by 9AM, 2 other people had come in. One for a antibody test and one for a stress test (because we were at a cardiologist’s office). But at 9AM, only me and one other lady from one of the couple’s remained. But she wasn’t being tested. At around 8.50, the receptionist, who was very lovely, but a bit useless to me, offered me an appointment to come back…two weeks in the future. I kept my cool but since Dave was going to get his test results in 24-48 hours, it didn’t make sense for me to wait two weeks, as we were sick together. (See: https://firststopheathrow.com/2020/03/21/quarantine-day-5/). But by 9AM when the waiting room got quiet, I asked if perchance there had been any cancellations or no shows.

Sure enough, there was, and there started my COVID19 antibody testing saga. I was taken into a room about 20 minutes later, where I was given a gown and told that they would be doing an EKG. After the tech did the EKG, I met with the PA who said it looked a little funky (genuinely could not remember any of the medical terms she said about why it looked funky, probably the way it was beating as that’s what an EKG tests). She asked if I was having any other lasting symptoms and I told her about my history of asthma and the sharp pain in my left lung. It comes and goes intermittently, since well, end of March, and I thought I developed this: https://www.healthline.com/health/precordial-catch-syndrome. But since she asked I brought it up.

The spotty EKG + the asthmatic history + the pain in the lung led the PA to believe I have developed something called pericarditis. Totally not a big deal, basically it’s inflammation around the heart. It’s very consistent with having a viral infection. It can go away on its own, but also you can take advil etc. to help. To see if there was any fluid around my heart (called Emulsion) and my lungs, I next had an ultrasound. That came back clear. So we moved onto the blood withdrawal stage.

Genuinely, everyone we spoke to was so nice at the cardiologist’s office, even after fucking up my appointment. And they all were working really hard and still managing to be really fucking nice. So it was a bit of a shocker when we went next door to the lab. I don’t know what it is about phlebotomists, but they’re either like the nicest, friendliest people or they’re awful. Unfortunately for us, it was the latter. They were sharp and almost borderline rude, basically completely ignoring us except to bark orders like “picture id and insurance” “sit” “and come”.

I feel like I inherited my mother’s ability to be extra sweet to get things out of people (that sounds awful but I mean like at the DMV or say, the doctor’s office) and I wasn’t even trying to get anything out of them I was just trying to be nice!

I feel so thankful that everyone else at the practice was so nice, because they seperated Dave and I and it was a pretty stressful experience with all the testing and then my heart being a little funky. But the phlebotomy women were just nasty. They took a vial from Dave, but because they have to test for extra proteins (?) in my heart to diagnose the pericarditis, they took 3 vials from me. THREE. It was about 11.30 AM at this point, so I had been awake for four hours, but had eaten nothing (and I am notorious for fainting bc vasovagal responses. Yes that sounds dirty, no it is not. Anyway, despite the mean lady sticking me with a giant needle and bleeding a decent amount and being very bruised, I’ll give it to her she was quick.

Dave and I left, hailed a cab (another 5 minute process) and headed home to anxiously await our results. Which were coming in 24-48 hours.

While we wait, I will tell you guys more about the test itself. SARS CoV2 antibody tests detect IgM and IgG antibodies against SARS CoV2 in individuals suspected to have COVID 19,

The antibodies (and regular bodies? I don’t know I’m a lawyer not a doctor) present below will indicate which stage of infection one is in:

RT-qPCRIgMIgGClinical Significant
+Patient may be in early window of infection
++Patient may be in early stage of infection
+++Patient is in active phase of infection
++Patient may be in the late or recurrent stage of infection
+Patient may be in early state of infection. RT qPCR may be false negative.
+Patient may have had past infection and recovered
++ Patient may be in recovery stage of an infection, or the RT qPCR result may be false negative.
So as you can see, we want to be in the second to last row, only have IgG antibodies present.

On Thursday, Dave received the results of his antibody test. He had neither the active bodies (?) nor the antibodies, meaning he doesn’t currently have coronavirus, nor did he.

On Wednesday I tried to call the doctor to follow up. Their voicemail was full. I sent an email. I tried to call again Thursday. And Friday. And I could never leave a message because their mailbox was full. I swear I was pleasant in my first email. But the one I sent Friday afternoon, less so. I mean I wasn’t irrational, if the test results aren’t back from the lab fine, but like give a girl an update? Or a call/email back at least.

Monday morning, day 48 of quarantine for me, I complained to labfinder, the online platform the doctor’s office uses to publish results. I told them I couldn’t get in touch with the doctor’s office and the test was last Monday. Within the hour, I had a call from the doctor’s office, with a young lady profusely apologizing to me. She promised me that she would call the lab and give me a call back this afternoon. She called back less than ten minutes later to tell me the lab did not in fact lose my three vials of blood, they just don’t have the results yet. But she said she would call back later this afternoon or tomorrow morning and tell me them. So at least there was progress.

At this point, I assumed if Dave didn’t have any of the bodies or antibodies, I probably didn’t either. The only thing is, at the bottom of Dave’s test, it basically said do not rely on these results at all. So we were still curious to see what mine said.

So on day 49 of quarantine, I get a call from the PA I saw, who told me I probably didn’t have COVID, as I don’t have the antibodies or any active bodies-which was expected as Dave’s test was the same. However, I do have high levels of CRP which is indicative of pericarditis. So we did have some viral, flu like illness, but hopefully the pericarditis will be gone soon!

xx
j

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