Ontario man with COVID-19 wants to know why he wasn't tested sooner

A London, Ont man, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, says he's disappointed it took 10 days for healthcare providers to listen to him and test him for the virus. 

John Acquaviva returned from the UK on March 8, showed all the symptoms, but didn't get a test until March 19

John Acquaviva was tested for COVID-19 11 days after arriving in Canada from the UK. (Submitted by John Acquavivas)

A London, Ont man, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, says he's disappointed it took almost two weeks for healthcare providers to listen to him and to test him for the virus.

Twelve days after returning from England, John Acquaviva received confirmation Saturday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

He wasn't surprised. In fact, he was relieved.

"Not knowing is really terrifying," Acquaviva said recalling how sick he felt and how hard he had to fight to get a test.

The 56-year-old had travelled to India at the end of February, returned briefly to London, Ont., then set out for Spain and England at the beginning of March.

He flew home March 8 and within two days started to feel unwell.

"I wasn't sure if I had it, but I said 'I'm just gonna stay away from everyone because I did come back from travels,'" he said, grateful that he decided to self-quarantine. 

John Acquaviva at London's COVID-19 assessment centre where he was told there were no tests available. (Provided: John Acquaviva)

At the time of his return, officials at Toronto's Pearson International Airport only questioned whether he had been to China or Italy. That was protocol at the time, but Acquaviva said he knew enough about the spread to be worried. 

"I'm the guy who ticks off the boxes, so let's make sure I'm not causing a storm, because I did not come back to make collateral damage in London," he said from his home where he is currently recovering. 

The steps he took to get a test

Acquaviva said he repeatedly called his family doctor, but was told not to come into the office to prevent potentially spreading whatever he had. 

The doctor insisted that unless he was feeling extremely sick, the best thing to do was to stay at home. 

Then the aches and pains started, he had a continuous fever, a lack of appetite and was lethargic. 

"I kept saying to my doctor 'Hey, I travel. If anyone should be tested, it should be me because I tick off all the boxes.'"

By March 15, one week after returning, he says he panicked when he developed a dry cough.  

"This is a terrible thing in isolation for a person to deal with because how do I know how sick I am?" he questioned. Avquaviva has a history of respiratory illness, having been hospitalized in the past for pneumonia. 

"Why aren't my [health] professionals helping me clarify this matter?" he began to ask himself. 

Acquaviva called his doctor one more time and was advised to wait until March 16 when London's first assessment centre was opening at the local Oakridge Arena.

A health care worker helps triage a potential patient at the London, Ont., COVID-19 assessment centre. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Waiting in his car with dozens of others, Acquaviva was seen by healthcare professionals who agreed he should be tested. He said they apologized that no testing was available on site. 

So, they took down his information, advised him to continue in isolation and sent him home saying they would call him when test kits were available, he said. 

"It was pretty gutting," he recalled. "More than ever I knew I had this thing, and more than ever I was so close, yet so far."

Goes to the ER

The next day, his health took a turn for the worst. He was having difficulty breathing. 

On March 19, Acquaviva went to the emergency room at London's University Hospital.

Once he told staff why he was there, he says they immediately took him to an isolated room where a nurse asked him to go through his symptoms and travel history. 

Eventually, he says a doctor conducted several tests on him, including the nasal swab, which confirmed March 20 that he had the virus.  

"The professionals stepped up," Acquaviva said. "I was frustrated with the system when I was knocking on the door, but when I finally got to the door, I was treated with respect, concern, truth and action." 

After the diagnosis, a nurse has been calling him regularly at home to check up on his recovery.

'Take this seriously'

Acquaviva is one of approximately 26,000 Ontarians who have been tested for COVID-19, with some 425 receiving a positive result.  

The province has said tests are being rationed in order for the most vulnerable, including health care providers, to have access to the in-demand swabs. 

Acquaviva says that while rest and acetaminophen have helped him recover, he doesn't wish the illness on anyone.

"Take it seriously," he advises people, especially the younger generation.

"You may be young and strong, but remember your community, so don't be cynical," he said.