1 October 2021

Gran's diary of family life with COVID-19 hits home

| James Coleman
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Tanya Austen's grand-daughters

The two girls received positive COVID-19 test results on Wednesday, 29 September. Photo: Tanya Austen.

“We are a household of seven. Two of our seven have just received positive COVID-19 test results. I will not lie, we are worried …”

Tanya Austen is a doting grandmother to two girls, aged three and four, who both contracted COVID-19 from their Kindergarten in Queanbeyan West.

They received the news on Wednesday and the entire multi-generational household was directed to quarantine at home for 14 days by ACT Health.

Tanya has taken to sharing their experiences on the Canberra Notice Board Group on Facebook in the form of daily posts.

The first one read:

“Today is Day One. I know so many have been affected and so many have questions, so I am going to keep a diary here for all to see. I will share our personal experiences, as best as I can, to try and help others who are facing the same circumstance.”

Tanya lives alongside her partner, her daughter, her son and his partner, and the two girls in the one house. She has received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, one member of the household has had one, and two are booked in for their first.

Tanya Austen

Tanya’s first “diary entry” on the Canberra Notice Board Group on Facebook.

On Day Two, no one else had developed symptoms. Tanya says you wouldn’t even know there was anything wrong with the girls.

“They were definitely under the weather yesterday with a loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, and feeling generally unwell. But today, with the giggles and squeals coming out of my lounge room, you would not even know.”

She says the highlight of their day was having the paramedics come around in an ambulance.

“We’ve had a visit from the paramedics to make sure we’re all isolating and to check up on our health. The girls thought that was sensational – to have an ambulance out on the driveway.”

The weather hasn’t been too favourable out in the backyard, so the girls have spent the day inside, undertaking a little movie marathon and baking with Grandma. Tanya says they’re “taking it a minute at a time”.

“It is only the second day. In a week’s time, we might be killing each other and looking for somewhere to hide the bodies. But seriously, it hasn’t been too traumatic for us at all.”

Tanya Austen's family

The whole multi-generational family is now quarantining at home. Photo: Tanya Austen.

The rest of their family is spread around the country, but Tanya says ACT Health has been like a second family.

“They’ve just been so fantastic. In the 48 hours since we received the news, they already feel like my new best friend. I get phone calls and text messages from them all the time. It’s brilliant and a real comfort.”

She said the family has taken all the necessary precautions on board to help keep the virus at bay.

“We isolate as best we can from each other. The shared bathroom and kitchen are on a schedule to be cleaned every two hours. Basically, the last one in cleans as they go. We’re wearing masks. And we’re disinfecting all the common touchpoints such as door handles, taps, light switches – all those things we’ve been told for the past few months germs can live on.”

Up until now, Tanya says the family has largely taken the flow-on effects of the restrictions and lockdowns in their stride, although her daughter was set to undertake an apprenticeship in hairdressing which has since fallen through.

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“That was a bit of an emotional low for her, as well as a financial loss, especially for a young woman trying to save up for her own deposit on a home. But I’ve been fortunate enough to keep plugging away at my work, and the kids aren’t even primary school aged yet, so it hasn’t really affected them. My son’s an essential worker so they’re still going to daycare.”

Tanya says she hopes that by sharing her family’s experience, she can bring some insight to those feeling overwhelmed by the flurry of worst-case scenarios out there.

“I know that when I’m reading all these COVID-19 stories on the internet, you’re always left with a whole lot of questions. What happens next? What happens once it’s in my house?”

She acknowledges that every case will be different, but feels that her family is “textbook for the Canberra area”.

“It was important for me to share this experience in an effort to enlighten others who are going through it and are just not sure what’s going on.”

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