My Corona nightmare

A fever-stricken expat's hellish journey through Berlin's emergency procedures, trying to get help and to be tested for Coronavirus.

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Photo by leo2014 from Pixabay. A sick English Berliner with suspected Coronavirus describes his week-long nightmare trying to get help.

I’ve had the flu or fevers hundreds of times in my life, but this hit me so much harder. The first symptoms started on Saturday – a really heavy head and my body was super weak. At this point I didn’t think much about Corona and just canceled all my plans for the day. I would definitely not have been this worried about my own symptoms if I hadn’t been following the news. I’ve been keeping myself informed about the situation in England, where my parents live.

2+5+2 hours on the hotline

On Sunday, my condition got worse and I started to be scared. I rang the medical hotline 116117, which they officially recommend as a first step. I first let it ring for two hours, then tried again for five and a half hours, listening to the same waiting music, before I finally got through. My flatmate had to talk to them because I can’t speak German, and they didn’t speak English. He described my symptoms: high fever, my body was aching, I was coughing, but my lungs were fine. The person on the phone listened, then we were cut off – or did they hang up? I couldn’t tell. It lasted another two hours before we could reach someone. All they asked was if I had been in contact with someone who is a confirmed case of Covid-19. When I said no, they told me not to worry and hung up.

I was hallucinating. Sometimes I woke up and I thought I was in London and my mom was here.

Stood up by the ambulance

On Monday morning, I was hallucinating. Sometimes I woke up and I thought I was in London and my mom was here (laughs). I took some Ibuprofen, but then stopped as a friend who is a doctor advised against it. My flatmate got a thermometer from the pharmacy: I had a 40° fever. By the end of the day, I was so weak that my flatmates decided to ring the emergency number (112) and get an ambulance. They said they’d be at our place in Karlshorst in five minutes. After half an hour, nothing. We rang them again and this time they told us they couldn’t come, and we should go to the Königin Elisabeth Hospital.

That’s when the person we had been on the phone with on Sunday rang back! When my flatmate explained the situation, their reply was: “Don’t go anywhere, just stay where you are.” He started to get pissed off: “This guy has a 40° fever; we need someone to help him!” But they said that no doctor would let me in.

Two nurses started shouting at us in German that this hospital is for other emergencies.”

Tested on the hospital carpark

My flatmates decided all the same to drive me to the Königin Elisabeth Hospital as recommended by the 112. We arrived there a bit after 9pm on Monday evening. I was wearing a mask and gloves. As we got off the car in front of the hospital, two nurses were smoking outside, wearing masks. They started shouting at us in German that this hospital is for other emergencies. They were quite disrespectful. My flatmate couldn’t believe it. He started shouting back. There were two policemen there, but they got in their car and left. I didn’t know where I was really. My body was weak, I was holding on to a car to stand up.

Luckily, a doctor showed up, also wearing a mask. He was nice and understanding and decided to help: when he took my temperature he was, “oh, shit”, went back inside with my health insurance card and brought the material to test me for Covid-19, which he did right there on the carpark. I had to put a big cotton bud deep in my throat, then up my nose. They said we would get the results within three days. They told me to stay isolated. I couldn’t leave my room anyway even if I had wanted to, I was way too sick.

Five agonising days waiting for the test’s results

Tuesday was as bad and my body temperature only started to go down on Wednesday. Many friends messaged me, offering to bring groceries and everyone looked so worried for me, which actually didn’t make things easier psychologically! Since Saturday I only left the house to go to the hospital, I’ve been stuck between these four walls, losing my brains a little bit, hallucinating, sleeping and sweating for hours. Naturally we rang the hospital on Wednesday, hoping to have results. They said the test isn’t ready yet. Apparently, you’re supposed to get the results three days after they scan the test, but you don’t know when they will scan it.

Since yesterday I’ve been feeling better. I’ve been able to walk and go to the bathroom without holding on to stuff. But the anxiety was still there – for me and for my flatmates: Did I catch the virus? My flatmates don’t have any symptoms so far, but to be honest I was pretty sure I got it. Finally today they called with the good news: I tested negative!