Glenn Letham says he is the first patient to have been tested for COVID-19 at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. He took the test Monday, but says it will likely come back as a negative. (Glenn Letham/Twitter)

Central Saanich resident among the first tested for COVID-19 at Saanich Peninsula Hospital

Glenn Letham chose to get tested after returning from the United States and developing cough

A Central Saanich resident described the experience of getting tested for COVID-19 in a matter-of-fact way, while also worrying about what would happen if it spread.

“You know what, I’m getting so used it to seeing it now [in the media] that I really didn’t think anything of it,” said Glenn Letham, a 55-year-old technology journalist, when asked was going through his mind as he was tested Monday at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. “I was impressed that through the whole procedure I really wasn’t near any other people. They had that whole area pretty much isolated.”

For the record, he does not know the results of the test yet, but the attending doctor told him that he would likely be a negative. “Based on that, the swab might not even go to the lab for testing,” said Letham.

But if Letham sounded sanguine about his own outcome, the testing experience also had a disconcerting note.

“I don’t think they’d be able to deal with a large number of people,” he said. “If they had hundreds of people there, that would obviously be a problem.” By way of background, Island Health has asked residents experiencing symptoms such as a new fever, dry cough or difficulty breathing to contact their primary care provider or call HealthLink BC at 811 to be assessed prior to actual screening, with testing recommended for people with respiratory symptoms who have travelled outside of Canada.

“It is not a drive-through for anyone,” said Letham, in pointing to the current procedure. “I was the only one,” he said of his test. “They were just getting rolling.”


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Letham, who said he was the first person to be tested at Saanich Peninsula Hospital, said he decided to get tested after experiencing what he called a “pretty bad cold” following his return from visiting family in the United States (Colorado) on March 10.

“The cough was getting worse, so I figured I better isolate and deal with this,” he said. “I have a compromised immune system as well, so I didn’t want to mess around.”

Letham said he was not spending any time in a major urban area, nor in a ski area with large crowds. “I really wasn’t out socializing a lot,” he said. “Honestly, my biggest concern during the whole trip was just going to the airport, because you get stuffed on a like a tram, and when are you jammed in, you feel like you are in a petri-dish.”

Letham said he started to experience the described symptoms within a couple of days of his return. “I didn’t think much about it,” he said. “But the fact that I had the cough and it was getting worse kind of gave me some concern.” The additional reporting around COVID-19 also heightened his concern. “From Tuesday to Saturday, it was like a whole new world,” he said.

In light of this, he chose to self-isolate over the weekend, during which he also called a personal medical contact.

“I asked him some questions and that put me in touch. It just happened that Monday was the first day [of testing]. So they were just setting up and I was the first guinea pig for the procedures.”

RELATED: Drive-through COVID-19 screening clinic opens in Victoria

Following instructions, Letham drove up to the hospital. He then dialed a number posted in a special area erected outside the hospital’s ER. “Somebody will then ask you questions, and if it escalates, they will then suit up accordingly,” he said. “They put a mask on you and then escorted me around the corner, where they have a section [with benches for waiting]. I sat there and waited outside for the nurses to come out and then get me. At that time, they took an X-ray and a nasal swap.”

The whole testing procedure — which happened in what Letham described as a “little ER” — took a minute, said Letham.

Overall, two nurses, and eventually a doctor, looked after him. “He said the X-ray looked good and said that I was probably fine,” he said. “He told me that in all likelihood I have bronchitis.”

When asked about the visuals of the experience, Letham said the medical staff looked exactly what he had seen on television. “They had full gloves, a full face shield, and a long plastic coat,” he said. “They were covered from head to toe.”

Following his test, Letham returned home to his duplex he currently shares with his parents, fully stocked up and taking all the necessary precautions along the way. “Even though I don’t have it, I need to be diligent,” he said. “I have masks and all the cleaners. I am going to stay put until I feel better, hopefully by Friday.”


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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