COVID-19 testing helped local NHS couple get back to caring for patients

A local couple, critical in the NHS response to COVID-19 have shared how testing helped give them, their families and their work colleagues peace of mind, whilst also allowing them to get back to delivering frontline care to patients. 

Mr Ed Abelardo is an Ear, Nose and Throat Speciality Doctor working at Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen. He provides critical care to patients from across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. ENT has been one of several medical specialities at the forefront of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in an area of high risk and requiring use of full personal protective equipment. 

In addition, his wife Heidi is a Registered Nurse who has been deployed to work in one of the Red COVID-19 dedicated wards at Glangwili Hospital. Back in April during Easter and after working with patients, Ed developed symptoms associated with COVID-19. “It was an extremely worrying time,” said Ed. “I was mostly concerned about my family and the thought that I have brought the virus home.” 

Ed and Heidi live with their two children in Carmarthen, having come to the UK from the Philippines some 12 years ago. “I self-isolated in my bedroom as per the government advice and it was a very surreal experience to have meals at the same time as my family but through Facetime in my room” said Ed. 

He then contacted Hywel Dda University Health Board as the health board were testing critical staff from March, and he was swabbed on the same day as reporting the symptoms. He explained: “It was the bank holiday weekend and so it took six days to get the results. It was a great relief not just for me, but for my family, to receive a negative result.

“We immediately went back to our daily routine, including home exercise and walking the dog. It also allowed me to go back to work the next day after the negative result and for my wife to also return to work soon after.” Ed said colleagues in the ENT department, and those working with his wife Heidi, were extremely supportive and took over his planned clinical duties. 

And the couple’s advice to anyone worried about getting the test is this: “If you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, please get tested as soon as possible. This will keep your mind, your family and your work colleagues at peace.” 

Typical symptoms of coronavirus include a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. 

Symptomatic critical workers, such as those in health and social care, local authorities, police, fire, education, food, retail, transport, public services, are encouraged to get a test by speaking to their employer or contacting the local Covid Enquiries team direct by telephone on 0300 303 8322 or by emailing CovidEnquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk (please note this is for critical workers only). 

Members of the public can apply for a test by visiting the Welsh Government website: www.gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-test and choosing either a mass drive-through testing centre or ordering a home testing kit. Those without digital access can apply for a test by calling the free number 119 (between 7am-11pm) and people with hearing or speech difficulties can call 18001 119.