Susie Fowler-Watt: ‘We’ve been swabbed for coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 August 2020

Susie and the family had to have Covid-19 tests. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Susie and the family had to have Covid-19 tests. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant

The TV presenter talks about her family’s experience of testing and says we shouldn’t let our guards down as schools return.

For a few glorious days this summer I hardly thought of the C word at all. Having survived a stressful lockdown, presenting BBC Look East right through and home schooling a recalcitrant seven year old, the summer holidays couldn’t come soon enough. We had cancelled our trip to Italy, and so decided to take the opportunity to visit family on the south coast and spend the rest of our time off at home.

There was something remarkably relaxing about this option. No flights, minimal packing, an escape from deadlines (which usually dominate our lives). We abided by all the Covid rules, ate our first meals out in months, and were pretty confident that we weren’t taking any major risks.

I felt more relaxed than I had done for ages, and as we headed back to Norfolk we agreed it had all been a great success. And then Hugo fell asleep. Nothing surprising about that, you may think, but this is a child who NEVER sleeps in the car. When he woke up an hour later, he complained of feeling ill and “aching all over”.

By the time we got home, the poor boy had a high temperature. The next morning I called our doctor, who said we all had to have Coronavirus tests. Dismay spread through the ranks - was our planned week of trips out from home morphing into self-isolation/illness?

Booking the tests was remarkably straightforward, and we turned up at the testing centre at Postwick Park and Ride within an hour of arranging it online. That’s when it all became a bit surreal. As you are not allowed to open your windows to talk to anyone, they communicate with you by holding up cards - like that scene in the film Love Actually, but far less romantic.

The last card said to call a mobile number. It got me through to the young man standing by my window, who proceeded to give very detailed instructions on how we were to do our own tests in the car. My heart sank. I had hoped someone qualified would be doing an efficient swab of my tonsils and nostrils - instead it was going to be up to me.

I’m sure the testing staff had seen it all before, but I felt we made quite a sight: All four of us packed into a sealed car, overheating on a hot summer’s day, puzzling over our testing kit of parts and squabbling over who was going to go first.

After a few tears, and bribery (we settled on three chocolate “treats” - I was desperate at this point), the youngest led the way. As Alex stuck the swab towards the back of Hugo’s throat, a loud noise came from deep inside his little body that seemed to shake the vehicle. It reminded me of Bruce in Matilda the Musical, who ate a whole chocolate cake, and was given away by “the biggest Alex and I were not much better. We both gagged, and retched and sneezed. But Lola, cool as a cucumber, swabbed her own throat and nose without incident or expulsion of any sort. “I don’t know why you’re all making such a fuss”, she remarked, before plugging her earphones back in and drowning out the family histrionics with Spotify.

Susie - let the twigs go...

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My phone pinged at 6am the next morning: we were all negative. It was a big relief, but it made me think of those who don’t get the same outcome and have the worry, uncertainty and the chance of serious illness ahead. While we had a few minutes of discomfort and a faintly amusing story to tell, others will have received possibly life-changing texts.

Many people have told me that they now ration the amount of news they get, as they find it too depressing. A counsellor described the grim reports of deaths and job losses as causing “vicarious trauma”. It’s vital to balance out the gloom, and on Look East we always try to have positive and uplifting stories too.

But, as schools reopen and the warm weather becomes a distant memory, all the experts I’ve interviewed say it’s more important than ever not to let our guards down. It would be lovely to forget the C word once and for all, but unfortunately it needs to stay firmly at the forefront of our minds. For a few glorious days this summer I hardly thought of the C word at all. Having survived a stressful lockdown, presenting BBC Look East right through and home schooling a recalcitrant seven year old, the summer holidays couldn’t come soon enough. We had cancelled our trip to Italy, and so decided to take the opportunity to visit family on the south coast and spend the rest of our time off at home.

There was something remarkably relaxing about this option. No flights, minimal packing, an escape from deadlines (which usually dominate our lives). We abided by all the Covid rules, ate our first meals out in months, and were pretty confident that we weren’t taking any major risks.

I felt more relaxed than I had done for ages, and as we headed back to Norfolk we agreed it had all been a great success. And then Hugo fell asleep. Nothing surprising about that, you may think, but this is a child who NEVER sleeps in the car. When he woke up an hour later, he complained of feeling ill and “aching all over”.

By the time we got home, the poor boy had a high temperature. The next morning I called our doctor, who said we all had to have Coronavirus tests. Dismay spread through the ranks - was our planned week of trips out from home morphing into self-isolation/illness?

Booking the tests was remarkably straightforward, and we turned up at the testing centre at Postwick Park and Ride within an hour of arranging it online. That’s when it all became a bit surreal. As you are not allowed to open your windows to talk to anyone, they communicate with you by holding up cards - like that scene in the film Love Actually, but far less romantic.

The last card said to call a mobile number. It got me through to the young man standing by my window, who proceeded to give very detailed instructions on how we were to do our own tests in the car. My heart sank. I had hoped someone qualified would be doing an efficient swab of my tonsils and nostrils - instead it was going to be up to me.

I’m sure the testing staff had seen it all before, but I felt we made quite a sight: All four of us packed into a sealed car, overheating on a hot summer’s day, puzzling over our testing kit of parts and squabbling over who was going to go first.

After a few tears, and bribery (we settled on three chocolate “treats” - I was desperate at this point), the youngest led the way. As Alex stuck the swab towards the back of Hugo’s throat, a loud noise came from deep inside his little body that seemed to shake the vehicle. It reminded me of Bruce in Matilda the Musical, who ate a whole chocolate cake, and was given away by “the biggest Alex and I were not much better. We both gagged, and retched and sneezed. But Lola, cool as a cucumber, swabbed her own throat and nose without incident or expulsion of any sort. “I don’t know why you’re all making such a fuss”, she remarked, before plugging her earphones back in and drowning out the family histrionics with Spotify.

My phone pinged at 6am the next morning: we were all negative. It was a big relief, but it made me think of those who don’t get the same outcome and have the worry, uncertainty and the chance of serious illness ahead. While we had a few minutes of discomfort and a faintly amusing story to tell, others will have received possibly life-changing texts.

Many people have told me that they now ration the amount of news they get, as they find it too depressing. A counsellor described the grim reports of deaths and job losses as causing “vicarious trauma”. It’s vital to balance out the gloom, and on Look East we always try to have positive and uplifting stories too.

But, as schools reopen and the warm weather becomes a distant memory, all the experts I’ve interviewed say it’s more important than ever not to let our guards down. It would be lovely to forget the C word once and for all, but unfortunately it needs to stay firmly at the forefront of our minds.

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