Sunday evening, I felt drained and tired but had no fever. It had been two weeks of being sick, with mid-range fevers, congestion, and fatigue. Maria called an ambulance and insisted I go to the hospital. I wanted to wait till Monday, but everyone seemed concerned that I go right away even though I was in no pain and was not short of breath; I just kept having fits of coughing. There was a question about where I would go – CIMA or the state hospital. My feeling was that going to a private hospital would be better. Maria said it was less crowded – I told her I would go to the less crowded one. My son Daniel (who was also very sick but recovering) heard me say that. Instead, Maria told the ambulance driver to take me to the state hospital.
The ambulance ride was long and I was hooked up to oxygen as we traveled to the hospital. No one talked to me as I watched the flickering car headlights and passing streetlights reflected on the ambulance ceiling, unsure about what would happen to me. The attendant in the ambulance had a thick pad of forms he was filling out. But I noticed he would write, stop, then look out the window, and never finish the form. He had a very distracted dazed look in his eyes. We arrived at the emergency entrance, and I saw we were in central San Jose, but I was unsure exactly where. I clutched my travel pouch with my important papers, credit cards, phone, and charging cable. As I was wheeled through the double doors I first saw that the walls were painted a dark green, and the light was dim. An obese woman was lying on her stomach on a hospital bed. The nurses were cracking jokes. All the female nurses were very young and acted silly, posing for each other and teasing each other. So, I found the place odd before I was given any medicine or injection. Why were all of these people joking around when sick people were there? In the past, I have been in emergency rooms in the U.S., usually with bright, white walls and solemn, filled with quiet ill people, so I found everything here strange.
After moving me to a hospital bed from the ambulance gurney, an English-speaking nurse asked to give me a PCR test. I questioned her about it; I wondered if there was another way to test if I had COVID – she said no – this was the only way they did it at this hospital. She said they would not treat me if I did not take the test. So, I decided to have it done, remembering that my son had been tested this way and had not been harmed by it.
When the nurse stuck the swab far up my right nostril, it was very uncomfortable. I cringed a bit. Then she stuck a swab far up my left nostril, I flinched back and uttered, ¨What the hell! ¨ I saw a flash and a small sepia-colored microchip shape with this label [#13].
Next, a nurse came with various shaped vials and large syringes and drew blood from my left arm. That arm has the best veins. Another nurse walked up with two large needles and said they needed to take arterial blood samples. First, she took a sample from my left wrist. Another nurse held my arm still – it felt like something was being injected into my wrist rather than drawn out. I was shocked at how badly this procedure hurt. The nurse came around the hospital bed to take a sample from my right wrist. She tried it without the other nurse holding my arm. Again, the pain was intense. But she had to try again because she missed the vein, and it felt like something was injected into my wrist rather than drawn out.
They wheeled my bed into a dark side room, and I dozed off for a short time. After about 30 minutes, a male nurse walked into the room, a female nurse stood solemnly next to him, and without looking directly at me, he stated in a very flat voice that I tested positive for COVID. They then turned and walked out. A few minutes later, the same male nurse returned and said he needed to take all my clothing and someone from my home would have to pick it up. A female nurse helped me undress and put on a faded pink hospital gown. She then put my clothing into a black plastic trash bag. A few minutes later, the male nurse returned and said he needed to take my papers and phone – everything – due to some new magisterial order! I reacted strongly against this because I would be left in this hospital without identification; I did not trust giving anyone my personal belongings – especially my phone. But the male nurse proceeded to tug the things out of my hand and put everything in the bag with my clothes. A few minutes later, a female nurse came in with a form with my name and ID printed and asked who they should contact to pick up my belongings – she emphasized that these things had to be picked up immediately. I told her to call Maria and Carlos, whom I knew had their car and knew where I was. Their number was already listed as a contact because Maria was the one who had called the ambulance. I asked what time it was, and the nurse said around 10:30 pm. I also asked where I was, and she said The Hospital. I was then wheeled into a larger room where there were other patients – I could not see anyone well because my bed was in a flat position, and I dozed off, worried about what I had gotten myself into.