The last thing you want to do when you travel is go to a hospital because you have tested positive for Covid. Arriving in Armenia ill was simply not a part of our plan but the level of care I received in Yerevan surpassed my expectations.
Having arrived in Yerevan at 3:30am on Wednesday, June 15, after a few glorious weeks driving through Greece, my wife Karen and I went to our hotel, got a few hours of sleep, and began our day around noon. We attended a graduation event for a group of startup companies at the American University of Armenia and after the reception went back to our hotel. Not feeling well, I took a rapid Covid test that we had brought from the States. The test was negative, but the next morning I was feeling worse and took another rapid test — this time it was positive.
Our hearts sank. We are, of course, quadruple-vaccinated, having gone for the booster before we left the States — and always seem to be that one-off couple who continues to wear their masks. After traveling through Italy, Spain, and Greece these last few years, we fully realize that our travels during the Covid era likely puts us in the category of when we get Covid not if, but this took us by swift surprise. We never would have gone to the university gathering had we suspected either of us had Covid. I immediately contacted my colleagues to spread the word to attendees that they had been exposed. Like the rest of the world, no one there was masked. No one anywhere masks anymore. We’re all tired of Covid and masking, but Covid’s not tired of us.
Karen made one phone call to a Yerevan-based book client of hers, who put us in touch with Dr. Artur Melkonyan with Prom-Test Laboratories. By 3 p.m., Dr. Melkonyan had sent a nurse to our hotel room to take samples for the RT-PCR Covid test. Two hours later, I received a call from Dr. Melkonyan, confirming what we suspected — that the PCR test was positive. He then gave me the name and phone number of Dr. George Barseghyan, who has had a lot of experience treating Covid patients at Nairi Hospital. After a thorough physical exam at 10:30 a.m. the following morning, Dr. Barseghyan was concerned that I may have fluid building up in my lungs, so he arranged for blood work and a chest CT-scan.
I found my way to the blood lab and was second in line. I then went to radiology and was immediately taken into the radiology facility. They had a brand-new Siemens CT scanner that looked like it had just come out of the shipping container. The technicians were well-trained and moved me through process efficiently. I then went back to see Dr. Barseghyan. He said that the radiology scan confirmed that I was at risk of developing pneumonia, so he prescribed a number of medications, and I was out the door by 12:30pm. Within two hours, I had two consultations with an excellent doctor, complete with radiological exam and blood work. Last time I recall going to an emergency room in Texas, it took half a day to accomplish what the Nairi Hospital team did in two hours.
I should mention that during this period, I left two messages for my primary care physician in Texas. Three days later, I have yet to hear back. My two-hour visit exceeded expectation. After 48 hours on the prescribed medications, I continue to rest and feel better. Remarkably, Karen remains negative for Covid, but even if we need to do the hospital run all over again, I have great confidence that we will get the care we need. The score? Armenia 1, Texas 0!