17 November 2021

It's 'Freedom Day' for Grandma and her family as the COVID-19 saga comes to an end

| James Coleman
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Tanya Austen

Tanya Austen – the ‘Grandma’ – enjoying a meal out with her family after a two-month ordeal with COVID-19. Photo: Tanya Austen Facebook.

The saga has finally come to an end.

Tanya Austen has posted her last diary entry to the Canberra Notice Board Group on Facebook, effectively bringing to a close her family’s ordeal with COVID-19.

The multigenerational family of seven live in Florey and received a phone call from ACT Health on Monday, 27 September, to inform them that four-year-old Ellie-Rose and three-year-old Dakota had both returned positive COVID-19 test results.

In the 47 days that followed, six of them contracted the virus. Her son’s partner ended up in hospital over concerns about her oxygen levels, but fortunately steered clear of the ICU and was home and hosed within 48 hours. Tanya’s partner, Peter, was the one the family was most concerned about from the start, as someone with acute respiratory issues. He was the only one to stay negative the entire time.

“The fact that he got through all of those days with all of us in close contact is outstanding,” Tanya said.

Tanya has documented the whole ordeal with regular posts to the Canberra Notice Board Group to combat the flurry of worst-case scenarios out there with actual lived experience.

Tanya Austen's grand-daughters

Four-year-old Ellie-Rose and three-year-old Dakota contracted the virus from their Queanbeyan West daycare. Photo: Tanya Austen.

Saturday, 13 November, was ‘Freedom Day’.

The family has finished the required quarantine period and celebrated the occasion with a meal out. All of the adults are back at work and the kids are back at daycare.

Tanya – or as she came to be known across Canberra, ‘the Grandma’ – says it’s absolutely wonderful to be back out in the world.

“Thank goodness we didn’t need any alibis or deep holes while we were all locked in the house together.”

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All the family members tried to isolate themselves as best as they could, washing hands, wearing masks and disinfecting regularly.

“Of a night, I’d be the last one to bed and I’d start at one end of the house and work my way through so it was all clean for the morning.”

She says that so far, none of the family members has any lingering effects to report.

“I lost my senses of taste and smell completely by about day five of my infection, and that has only recently come back.”

As a food and beverage manager at the ANU, she says this is a massive relief.

Tanya Austen

‘The Grandma’s’ last diary entry to the Canberra Notice Board Group on Facebook. Image: Screenshot.

Tanya herself is fully vaccinated, while the other family members were a mix of fully and partially vaccinated, and unvaccinated. She says there was no massive difference in the symptoms between the three.

“My son and daughter have not been vaccinated yet and their symptoms seemed to last a bit longer. They had symptoms for about five to seven days, whereas I was really only the 48 hours. That seems consistent with the research about the COVID-19 vaccine and what it’s designed to do.

“Look, the vaccine doesn’t stop you from getting it. But it stopped me from getting severe symptoms, and that is a really important message to share.”

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Tanya says that despite having COVID-19, the unvaccinated members of her household are still eligible to receive the vaccine and are booked in to get their jabs “as soon as possible”.

“When you get that initial phone call to say that there’s COVID-19 in your household, you see all those horrible stories on the news and you have those fears in your mind. But as each day progressed, we just realised that our situation was not going to be that dire, which provided us comfort. We were going to get through this okay.”

And they did. Fingers crossed it stays this way.

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