Coretext writer Nicole Baxter sees some positives amid the present pandemic
Coretext creative director Tim Claeys produced this illustration from his home where he is isolating in Victoria. It depicts the value of taking a positive mind-set amid this tumultuous time, with people isolated in their island homes, still in-touch, yet surrounded by love.
Twelve months ago developing a dry cough and sore throat would not have caused much concern, but acquiring these symptoms recently caused a tidal wave of anxiety to wash over me.
I quietly sent a text to one of my doctor friends.
“How are you going?” I wrote.
“Okay,” she responded. “How are you?”
“Alright for the most part, except I have a dry cough and a sore throat.” I replied.
“I had a flu vaccination a while ago, could it be that?”
“I’d book an appointment with your GP,” she said.
I rang my GP’s clinic and was told I could ‘see’ my doctor the next day.
I say ‘see’ because my ‘visit’ didn’t involve turning up to the clinic as I have done so many times before. The appointment was through tele-health via the phone.
My ‘check-up’ was a welcome and positive new experience.
I live north of Wagga Wagga in southern New South Wales, while my GP works out of a clinic located south-east of the city’s main central business district.
Driving to see her usually takes 15 to 20 minutes depending on traffic, followed by a 30 to 60 minute-wait, before being called for my appointment.
The consultation takes 15 to 20 minutes, after which I fill whatever script is needed from the pharmacy next door. I then make the 15 to 20 minute drive home.
It is a big chunk of time taken out of my work day. But it is time I am prepared to spend, and make up on other days during the week, because my GP listens well and has a collaborative approach to care.
Fast forward to my current medical concern and I was delighted I could continue working at home right up to the appointment time; her phone call.
After 20 minutes of discussion and a series of questions about my symptoms, my doctor decided to order a test to rule out COVID-19.
She told me this was to comply with a government directive to increase testing among people with minor respiratory symptoms.
At 7.20 the next morning, my mobile phone rang.
“Your doctor has sent through paperwork to have you tested for COVID-19," a friendly woman said. "We have a free appointment this morning at 9.20.”
I grabbed it.
I notified work.
I spent the intervening time researching an article; all the while hoping I had not somehow picked up the mysterious, unpredictable and invisible killer.
At 9.10, I grabbed a face mask and a pair of gloves – plenty are available because a daily chore is cleaning my cat’s litter box – and made the 10 minute journey to the clinic.
My instructions were to sit in the car until one minute before my appointment, put on my mask and kitty litter gloves and make my way inside.
On exiting the elevator at the first floor, I walked, heart thudding, towards the clinic.
As I approached, I could see a woman covered from head-to-toe: face mask, gloves and surgical scrubs. There was nobody else.
“Nicole Baxter?” she said from the other side of a glass door.
“Yes,” I said.
“Come inside and sit down.”
She checked my name, birth date and address, before explaining the procedure. Two swabs using two separate collection sticks. One from the back of the throat and the other from the back of the nose.
“Okay, you can take off your mask,” she said.
“The one from the throat is likely to make you gag and the one from the nose is the most unpleasant, causing your eyes to water.”
She was right on both accounts.
Although she was gentle when she poked the stick into my nose; all the while encouraging me to relax; my eyes streamed and I felt ill as she swished it around the back of my nose for what felt like forever. In reality, it took 10 seconds.
After removing the stick from my nose she offered a tissue for my eyes, told me to put on my mask and check the details on the collection tube. Everything was correct.
I thanked her for her professionalism and efforts to keep our community safe.
She said she felt hers was one of the safest places to work because of the extensive personal protection equipment she wore.
After 10 minutes in the clinic, I was released back out into our brave new world and told to remain in my home until the results were known.
At 9am the next day, my GP phoned with the results.
We briefly discussed possible causes of my symptoms and she offered some suggestions to improve my health.
When I put down the phone, I said a prayer of thanks, messaged my work colleagues, family and friends, and returned to writing an article.
As an observer, during the past two months, I have noted the significance of, and in some cases, the value of changes that have come so quickly into our lives. Some of these include:
following government instructions about staying home;
having the capacity to continue working from home;
focusing on remaining calm and relaxed (as much as possible);
eating a more balanced diet to remain healthy;
practicing physical distancing (staying at least 1.5 metres from others) if leaving home to pick up essentials;
washing hands regularly using soap or sanitiser for at least 20 seconds;
not touching eyes, nose or mouth;
covering coughs and sneezes with an elbow or tissue;
reaching out to a trusted GP if concerned;
using new time-saving tele-health options via the phone or secure video link;
prioritising sleep and rest;
practicing mindfulness (I use the Calm app, but there are many others);
singing songs in Zoom with my choir to remain connected and lift my mood;
going on-line to watch live-streamed concerts and theatre in support of musicians and actors who have lost their jobs;
switching off social media, television or the radio if reports about the pandemic just become too much;
determining set times to check for news or developments;
seeking information only from trusted and peer-reviewed sources;
working each day because achievement boosts feel-good chemicals, even if the tasks are unpaid and involve tidying up, doing regular chores (yes, the kitty litter), re-organising the house or gardening;
contacting friends, family and work colleagues using phone or video to see if they need anything, especially those who are elderly or who live on their own;
a local push to buy local and Australian-made goods and services;
supporting innovative local businesses who have quickly adapted their business models to survive amid the pandemic;
saying thank you to and appreciating family, friends, work colleagues; health professionals; our leaders; food suppliers; and Australian farmers; and
making time for exercise and laughter every day.
From this top-of-mind list you can see many small but significant changes in perspective and practices.
When I look at this list I am actually buoyed.
We have been forced to slow down and put health and wellbeing first. These are positive developments, and hopefully, as physical distancing regulations are relaxed, this more loving approach – that many people have adopted – will last.
Coretext creative director Tim Claeys is an internationally recognised illustrator and graphic designer. Before the COVID-19 crisis, he worked from Coretext's head-office in North Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Now, he works for Coretext in 'Portugal', a room in his home.
Nicole Baxter is a writer, photographer and editor. She works for Coretext from her home in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia. Her ginger rescue-cat Missy reminds her twice-a-day about the value of play, curiosity, and back yard exploration.
Learn more about Coretext's people, clients and work by clicking here.
Illustration: Tim Claeys.
Story: Nicole Baxter.
Editor: Brad Collis.
Proofreader: Clarisa Collis.