'In hospital struggling to breathe’
AS A healthy 24-year-old, the last place I expected to be was in hospital struggling to breathe.
When my mystery illness first set in, I saw three GPs.
First, an after hours doctor, who decided I was just feeling anxious after hearing my occupation. I asked if it was worth getting COVID tested - he said no.
I saw two GPs at my usual doctors surgery, both who performed some more extensive tests. I went to get blood taken and to get X-rays done to rule out anything too serious. I was told to go to hospital if my breathing got any worse.
And it did. One day my condition declined, and I was rushed to the emergency department at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
Upon hearing I had respiratory symptoms I was immediately told to put on a mask. I was escorted to the respiratory clinic where I was led into a small, isolated cubicle and told to sit on a cold, plastic chair.
A nurse in full PPE came to check my vitals.
"I think you just need some pain killers and a good night's sleep," she said as I struggled to breathe properly.
I had more blood tests, an electrocardiogram, and was given some puffers to help open up air passages in my lungs.
A nurse asked me if I'd had a COVID test and I said no.
After five hours as my breathing improved slightly, another doctor came back and told me my tests came back clear and to go home. She said someone would be by soon to take out the cannula still poking out of my arm.
An hour later, a cleaner walks into my cubicle. I'm asked why I'm there by a nurse, and I say, confused, that I've been sitting in that same chair for about six hours.
Turns out, I'd been deleted off the system.
A nurse came by to take the cannula out, tells me to take the puffers with me, and disappears.
I head home with no diagnosis and no advice.
Two days later, my GP gave me a call on her day off after seeing I'd been in hospital. She asked if they gave me a diagnosis (I say no) or if they had COVID tested me (again, no).
My GP said the ED doctors believed I had viral pneumonia, which they had somehow failed to let me know, and she said she thought I should head to a drive-through clinic and get COVID tested just to be safe.
After testing negative a few days later, I went back to work, my breathing still not at 100 per cent.
Still confused about my experience, especially after hearing some similar stories from friends and family, I sent some questions off to the Department of Public Health.
Turns out, the system has failed.
I was told all patients presenting with respiratory symptoms at the state's hospitals are tested for COVID-19. However, this was not the case for me.
I was also told patients are advised to isolate until their respiratory symptoms settle or their COVID result returns negative. Again, this was not the case.
This really concerned me. If it happened to me, how many others is it happening to?
Tasmania is in a good place, and as Premier Peter Gutwein has said, we're likely one of the safest places to be right now.
But my experience has made me, and my friends and family, very concerned.
What would have happened if I did have COVID? If I'd been in and out of doctors clinics, gotten blood tests and X-rays, and spread the insidious illness to half of Hobart?
I should have taken myself to get tested. But when a health professional tells you they don't think you need testing, or doesn't test you despite knowing you should be, you start to think maybe you're fine.
But the guidelines are in black and white - people with fever, a runny nose, cough, sore or itchy throat, or shortness of breath should be tested for COVID.
These rules and regulations are in place to protect us. We may have no confirmed cases of COVID in Tasmania, but who's to say that won't change when we reopen our borders?
Public Health advice needs to be followed, by both the public and our healthcare professionals.
Our medical staff are doing an incredible job under difficult circumstances, but we should not be letting patients - COVID positive or not - slip through the net.
Not when the health of the whole state is at stake.
Originally published as 'The last place I expected to be was in hospital struggling to breathe'