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  • Writer's pictureShelly Bandelman

A Stick Up My Nose

Wednesday dawned bright and sunny. It was a perfect day to fight the traffic in Kampala for a Covid test. Zoe, Noah, and I were scheduled to fly to America on Sunday. Tickets were purchased, totes were being packed, and the airport was scheduled to open October 1! In typical fashion, the Ugandan president decided to make things difficult. Everyone flying in or OUT of Uganda MUST show Entebbe Airport personnel a negative Covid test result taken within 72 hours of the scheduled flight. Wednesday to Sunday was 120 hours before our flight! The labs are closed on Sundays, and there is not a guarantee results can be available in time for Saturday pick up if we pushed our tests to Thursday. Fortunately, the airport figured out the dilemma and made the necessary changes in their publications. The Ministry of Health agreed, and voila, the change was made. 120 hours it is!

After researching approved venues, we decided to use Lancet Laboratory. We checked with the branch near our home, and they sent us to the HQ in Nakasero (remember the market from last week)! Brian agreed to take us all in for the dreaded test.

Following Google Maps, we headed toward the craft shops we frequent regularly. The clinic was just a few blocks further. No problem, the traffic was mild, and we knew where we were. The lovely Google lady let us know we had arrived at our destination. The huge, navy blue, iron gates set in the 8 foot tall, white washed, cinder block wall were closed and a sign said, “WE HAVE MOVED. CALL…three phone numbers were listed.”

I already knew one of the phone numbers didn’t work because they had given it to me the day before in case I had any problems. I had tried to call for their hours, only to discover the phone was off. I didn’t have a lot of faith in the other numbers. Fortunately, a security guard stepped out and told us to follow the boda boda carrying a brightly dressed young lady with a small baby. As the boda pulled away from the curb, we followed the bright red and yellow dress up a block, turned right, and there were the vertical, long, white flags stenciled with the name and logo we were looking for.

Inside the compound was a short white brick building on the right, two white awning style tents were straight across the lawn from us, and piles of building material filled in the space to the left. The kids and I voted for the tents and picked our way across the damp lawn to greet the young lady behind the rickety wooden table. She sanitized my hands with the nasty smelling spray we have grown accustomed to, took my temperature, and asked for our passports. One good thing about living here so long, I knew to bring our passports! She filled out the forms, we chatted a bit, and I found a blue patio chair two meters from my closest neighbor, Zoe.

Noah was called first. He bravely went around the corner into the second tent. A minute later he emerged, and trudged to the Prado without a backward glance. Zoe and I looked at each other with a bit of trepidation.

They called Zoe. She rounded the corner. A minute later she emerged, gave me thumbs up, and headed to the Prado. Usually the kids stop and tell me about their experiences so I was beginning to wonder what was happening behind the white wall.

My name was called, and I rounded the white corner. There was a rickety wooden table covered with boxes and vials, and a banged up folding chair. The man in the white coat motioned me to the chair.

“Pretty tricky taking the kids first,” I commented.

“Yes, and they were strong,” was his reply. That should have given me a clue as to what was to come next.

We were getting the nasal swab test. I had heard it was unpleasant. I am old enough to have had unpleasant medical procedures. I am a woman. I have undergone unpleasant medical tests.

“How bad can it be?” I thought.

“You may experience some discomfort,” White Lab Coat said as he approached with a thin 12 inch stick with a thin layer of scratchy gauze on the tip.

All I can tell you is his and my definitions of “discomfort” are not in the same dictionary. He pushed that swab up past the nasal cavity to just below the brain and swabbed that tiny orifice. My nose revolted, my eyes watered, and I thought of ways I would like to return the torture. He pulled the offending stick out, handed me a Kleenex, and put the sample in small vial he had attached the appropriate tracking stickers to. I may have thanked him for the abuse before I left his torture chamber, but I can’t be sure.

The "discomfort" was short lived, and the pleasure of greeting Gabe in SeaTac will be worth it!

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