7 October 2021

Family life with COVID-19 goes on for Grandma, now sick herself

| James Coleman
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Girl with face mask

One of the girls with their new ‘superhero’ face shield. Photo: Tanya Austen.

It’s now Day Seven for the three-generational Austen family, and Grandma is the latest member to contract COVID-19.

Tanya Austen has been publishing daily posts to the Canberra Notice Board Group on Facebook about her household’s journey after her two granddaughters, four-year-old Ellie Rose and three-year-old Dakota, returned positive COVID-19 test results last week.

The virus has spread like wildfire through five of the seven household members, despite their best efforts to contain it with face masks, quarantine in bedrooms, and extensive sanitisation and disinfecting.

READ MORE Gran’s diary of family life with COVID-19 hits home

Tanya is the only one in the household to have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. One had received their first Pfizer dose and the rest of the adults were booked in for their first.

She is feeling “under the weather” but remains optimistic, safe in the knowledge of the vaccine’s effectiveness at alleviating symptoms.

“I have a mild itchy throat and some occasional sneezes. No fever, a little bit of a dry cough developing, but not chesty or severe or anything like that. I don’t feel like I want to curl up in a corner and sleep all day.”

She can still taste and says the only strange symptom is in her arthritic knees and hips which are aching more than usual.

Tanya Austen

Tanya Austen’s entry for Day Seven of home quarantine. Image: Screenshot.

Tanya’s son’s partner, Jackie, went to the Canberra Hospital late last week after the oxymometer on her fingertip revealed that her oxygen levels had dropped. With Jackie’s pre-existing medical conditions, ACT Health officials thought it best to play it safe and get her closer to advanced care in case symptoms worsened.

Tanya describes what follows as 48 hours of “scary stuff”.

“A lot of wires, tubes and tests for now, but she is in high spirits,” she wrote in Day Six’s entry.

“We are very fortunate for modern technologies; we can see her through the camera and hear her voice through the phone. We wish we could be there with her, but we also completely understand why that’s not possible right now.”

Jackie arrived back home from hospital in time for dinner on Monday night.

“She and my son are bouncing back quite well,” Tanya says.

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As for the young girls who kicked off the household’s ordeal after contracting the virus at daycare, ACT Health officials have declared both of them COVID-free. However, they still face a further 14 days of quarantine and another test before they’re deemed safe to re-emerge.

Tanya still remains concerned for her partner, who is vulnerable on account of acute respiratory issues.

“There’s always been a fear of him getting COVID-19 ever since it came into existence.”

She says that when the SARS pandemic hit in 2003, he contracted it and got through it without any treatment or hospitalisation. As the SARS-CoV virus is in the same family as the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the one behind COVID-19, she hopes this previous encounter has gifted him some natural immunity.

“Fingers crossed. Hopefully, that’s what’s kept him negative this far, but we’ll still keep him safe.”

Tanya Austen's family

The whole multi-generational family have been quarantining at home for nearly 10 days now. Photo: Tanya Austen.

Tanya says ACT Health continues to be a “real constant”, calling at least once a day to check up on the family despite facing stretched resources as case numbers pick up across the region. Each member of the family is tested every two days.

“Every second day we get a knock at the door. Somebody comes around to test us, check our vitals, and do a general welfare check just to make sure we’re keeping well. That’s very comforting.”

Tanya says that nobody is on the verge of killing each other, despite being locked away in the house for nearly 10 days now. She and the girls have spent their days painting, gardening, and coming up with other inventive and fun ways to help pass the time.

She says a highlight for the girls was Jackie coming home from the hospital with two face shields.

“That was like the golden toy. They have been over the moon since they got their own superpower face shield.”

As stressful, frustrating and frightening as the experience is, Tanya says getting to spend so much time with her family is a “blessing in disguise”.

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