The patient is impatient to go back to work. The Doctor says, "Sit tight. Not yet!"
A Dialogue with the Doctor
"Good morning, doctor."
"So--it seems the test results were negative..."
"Yes. Does that mean I can go back to work? I work in home care, and they're short right now. They said that if the test is negative, I don't have to wait the full fourteen days before coming back to work."
"Hold on a minute. I'm afraid work is just going to have to sit tight. I mean, it's very reassuring that the test is negative, but I still have some concerns. You told the nurse that you had some pain in the upper chest area?"
"Yes, it's very faint. It comes and goes. I know the test results were indeterminate for a few days, but it was finally negative..."
"Yes...but there is such a thing as a false negative. The test is seventy per cent accurate, but there is a thirty per cent chance that it is not."
"What? I hadn't heard anything about a false negative before."
"I wouldn't rush back to work just yet. I'll need to listen to your chest. Take a deep breath...thank you. Again...thank you."
"Is it possible that the chest pains could have something to do with my heart? I mean, I've had other chest pains, lower down, before. It could be indigestion, but I also wonder if it's my heart."
"It's possible. Ordinarily, I would order a stress test, but right now we can't do any routine testing like that. These upper chest pains, though...your chart says you have obstructive airway disease?"
"Yes. Could it be that, rather than the virus?"
"Have you experienced any shortness of breath?"
"No, that's the weird thing. No shortness of breath at all. The pain is mild, very come-and-go. There is another problem...I need to support my Dad, who's in a retirement home...assisted living, but not long term care. He has dementia, and he doesn't understand about self-isolation and all that stuff. Right now they aren't letting me in, but he needs extra support. I'm afraid that he might get frustrated, walk out, and get lost. I've been supporting him over the phone, but it's difficult. He's used to having me come in every day."
"They won't let you into any of the facilities right now, long term care or retirement. You'll just need to trust the staff to look after him. Look at the bigger picture: you need to keep him and the other residents safe from the virus."
"Yes, it's a terrible dilemma for my heart, and my mind's going crazy. I could pay for extra help, but...when did you say I could go back to work?"
"You need to wait until the symptoms are gone before you go back to work. I'll prescribe an inhaler for now."
"Okay...so hopefully we can survive a little more of this locked-in craziness."
"Yes, I'm afraid so. We need to take this seriously. Good luck with all of it."
"Yes, thank you...and you too, Doctor."