The following account was shared with Patient Safety Learning by a patient called Sarah.
She describes her experience of attending hospital with symptoms of COVID-19 and expresses concerns that she could have infected NHS staff due to a negative test result which later turned out to be inaccurate.
My symptoms began towards the end of April. I started to cough and feel really cold. I developed a severe headache, was bothered by light and started to hurt in my kidney area and my neck. I stopped being able to complete a sentence without breathing in between words and felt like I had a tight chest. I found it hard to stay awake. I struggled to breathe if I even stood up. We started to isolate as a family of six.
My GP tried to call but I was too breathless to speak on the phone so she asked me to take my blood pressure. It was 130/95 with a pulse of 38. She told my husband to take me to the hospital in case I needed oxygen.
I was taken to a ward specifically for those showing signs of COVID-19. Three nurses treated me while I was crying and coughing and unable to breathe. They had a mask and gloves and had put a mask on me but the masks were not great and I didn't think it would be sufficient protection. One swabbed my throat and up my nose. I knew I had COVID-19 and didn't want them touching me as I thought they would get it.
Two hours later was told I was fine and should go home. The doctor said my blood results were clear, my chest X-ray was clear I didn't have COVID, just anxiety. On my way out I was distressed as my husband and I were sure I had it. We continued to isolate as a family, despite what I was told in hospital. I haven't had anyone contact me with my swab results.
At home, my symptoms got worse. I was freezing and coughing, headache, diarrhoea, aches, foggy, couldn't taste or smell, craved sugar to keep me awake. My fever came on and off. I had three teenagers and a five year old at home. I had extreme exhaustion and was unable to walk or complete sentences.
A week or so later, following a phone call, the GP sent a Healthcare Assistant (HCA) to take my blood pressure and SATS. The HCA said that I had tested negative for COVID but I told her that I didn't believe it to be accurate. She gave me the SATS monitor to use myself while she watched from the doorway. My SATS went down to 80percent when I lifted my arms so the HCA called the GP who called an ambulance.
The paramedics said that I should be in a coma according to my obs. He was only wearing gloves and a mask so I was upset as I was sure I had COVID. He commented that it was in my notes, COVID negative. The paramedics were with me for over an hour in my house. My daughter was in the room and husband who were not wearing masks and my other three children not wearing masks came to say goodbye to me. It would have been quite possible for them to be spreading it to the paramedics too.
Upon walking to the ambulance, my SATS went down to 68% with a blood sugar of 2, so I was given sugar and given oxygen in the ambulance. I started to shake. The paramedic then changed into a hazmat suit. The other paramedic carried on treating me as he wanted to put a cannula into me. Acknowledging my concerns, they reassured me that they would speak to the staff to say that I may have had a false negative as I was showing signs of COVID.
The staff in the resuss part of the hospital were wearing full PPE with plastic over their faces. A few hours later the doctor made me walk round the ward with a SATS monitor attached to my ear. My SATS went down to 96 then 94 then 92 and then 90 and then I went back to my bed. The doctor told me that I did have COVID-19, that it had been a false negative and that I needed to rest.
My biggest concerns are for the safety of the paramedics, who were seriously at risk thinking I was a negative for COVID-19 because of my initial test results. I'm interested to know if anyone else had a similar experience.
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