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Grandma’s COVID Diary a hit in Canberra

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Ever wondered what it’s like to live with COVID-19, based on a local Canberra family in real time? Thanks to Tanya Austen, now we know.

Tanya has become Canberra’s very own COVID celebrity, amassing a dedicated social media audience as she updates the city on the realities of living with COVID-19.

Tanya, a young (she’s only 41) and bubbly grandmother from Florey who shares her home with her husband, her adult son and daughter, her son’s partner and two grandchildren, made the decision last fortnight to go public with her family’s plight after her two granddaughters were exposed at their Queanbeyan childcare centre.

“I am a pretty open person and I thought it would be a good thing to tell the rest of the community what we were going through just so they could understand the realities of it. It feels like every single time there’s an outbreak people ask if anyone has had it or if anyone knows anyone who knows anyone who’s had it and we have all these questions about it. Suddenly I was in a position to provide some answers. So I felt it was the right thing to do.”

After consulting with her family to ensure everyone felt comfortable, Tanya went on the Canberra Noticeboard Group (with nearly 95,000 members) and posted that her two young granddaughters, Dakota, 3, and Ellie-Rose, 4, had tested positive. Each day since, she has mapped the family’s journey—some of it good and some of it bad.

The good parts include the two girls having minimal symptoms and their usual high energy levels. A scary bit was when her son and his partner both tested positive; her son’s partner, an asthmatic, then spent two days in hospital as a precautionary measure when her symptoms worsened.

Ellie-Rose and Dakota were exposed at their Queanbeyan childcare centre.

Day Seven of the virus revealed that Tanya herself had tested positive “Down the rabbit hole we go, Groundhog Day, Grandma is Covid positive. Day zero starts all over again!” she wrote on the noticeboard.

Tanya praises her double vaccination status with giving her very minimal symptoms and said she has experienced only 48 hours of very mild fluey feelings and a slight loss of taste.

Her husband and her children had their vaccination appointments booked for the coming weeks.

“I didn’t expect to become a public advocate for the vaccination—but it did absolutely everything it needed to do and honestly I feel absolutely fine. I would say I am pro-choice but I would also say if you are not going to take the vaccine it should be for a very good reason and you should be properly educated about it and not just following the crowd.

“Having COVID in your house is a very, very scary thing and once it is in your house it is too late to make the decision to get vaccinated. COVID is deadly. It is a frightening position to find yourself in.”

Tanya also expressed pride in the ACT’s highest national average vaccination rate.

“I am so proud of our vaccination rates. For our community to get any sense of normality back, we all need to vaccinate.”

Meanwhile, her ability to provide a real-time COVID Diary to the rest of the community has had certain benefits, not least the wave of compassion, concern and support from complete strangers.

Tanya Austen, providing Canberra with details of her family’s journey through Covid.

“Honestly, it has been a bit overwhelming to get hundreds of responses from people each day and to have so many private messages with people asking me specific questions and everyone being so kind.”

Mainstream media has also picked up the story, giving the family national exposure. It makes her think it was the right thing to do.

It has also given the outgoing Food and Beverage Manager at the Australian National University greater connection with the outside world during her time of enforced quarantining.

“I have loved having the contact with people as I am usually a very busy person who works up to 60 hours a week and loves interacting with others, so it has helped keep me connected and sane to some extent!”

Tanya is now up to Day 10 of the diary and she knows people are waiting for her updates, so she usually posts when the little ones are having their midday nap.

“I know there are people out there following closely so I try and give as much information as I can in a humorous way and to be honest. So many people have appreciated the information and have been curious.”

Tanya also praises the ACT Health workers who have been a constant fixture in the family’s life and who have provided so much support and guidance.

“We all call them superheroes in capes. I can’t say enough about how great they have been.”

And when her family finally gets the all-clear to emerge from their COVID journey, Tanya says the thing she is looking forward to most is the simplest.

“I cannot wait to take the girls to the park and let them have a big play and see other people.”

And for Tanya herself, the return to work will be a blessed day indeed.

“I love my job and I love what I do and I love being busy…I have been trying to make the most of time at home, baking and playing with the girls and enjoying the sunshine…But I cannot wait to get back to normal life and getting to enjoy my job each day.”

You can follow Tanya and her family’s journey here.

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