A Positive COVID-19 Story

Skipsey family

Aussie’s with food allergy return to Australia needing to manage multiple food allergies through two weeks of quarantine

Two weeks ago my husband, myself and four young sons were faced with a difficult decision due to COVID-19. After four years of full time travel we were left with the choice of either being stuck in Portugal for an undetermined period of time (with zero health insurance), or taking a big gamble risking our health, sanity and finances to embark on a 45 hour journey, that would require us to transit through two other countries, hoping to make it home to Australia.’

Initially we thought that we could wait it out. Portugal had locked down quicker than Australia, we felt like it was safer to stay. We had already self isolated, had access to fresh food and somewhere to sleep, only to later realise that this was going to go on much longer than we’d originally anticipated. Our travel insurance had told us that we were no longer covered for Coronavirus and due to the travel advisory being upgraded to level 4, we would not be able to extend our basic policy beyond May. We could stay where we had been isolating for three and a half weeks, risking being uninsured for 6+months, or end our adventures and go home to the safety blanket that is Medicare.

I’d been following other families and travellers in online groups and was seeing people losing a lot of money on multiple flight cancellations, borders closing without warning and being left stranded at airports with nowhere to go. I was absolutely terrified to say the least. This fear was only intensified when Australia announced that all returning citizens were to be quarantined in hotels for 14 days.

Now what may seems like a holiday for some, would be a nightmare for my family. We have one son with multiple allergies including the risk of anaphylaxis and intolerances, one with FPIES (Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome), one with severe intolerances and myself with food allergies as well. Now that is far too many meals to risk exposure for our anaphylactic child. Not to mention the reports I’d been reading, of fellow Aussies already in quarantine that were not being given appropriate meals and zero options. The one meal for all deal, would simply not suffice in our case. All this was on top of no access to fresh air and the possibility of being split up, (as a lot of hotels do not have rooms big enough to accommodate families our size). Did I mention we have four seriously active young boys, the eldest being 12 years of age and youngest being 5 years of age, never having spent more than one day inside.

After several agonising discussions, with all of this in mind we decided that staying was too risky. The chances of one of us getting sick or injuring ourselves in that period of time were far too high. We booked our flights at 3 times the cost of an ordinary one way airfare and started to worry about the chances of exposure to Coronavirus and the hotel conditions upon our return.

This is where the amazing Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia support organisation came to our rescue. I came across a post on the Facebook group, asking if anyone in hotel quarantine needed help gaining access to appropriate food. After a short comment and an email, I had the CEO, Maria Said, championing our case to all of the appropriate government departments.

After all of her hard work, Maria informed me on the last leg of our journey (with a mere 15 hours to go) that everything had been taken care of. We had been granted an exemption from the regular hotel quarantine. We were being put in a self-contained apartment, where we would have access to groceries and a kitchen, to be sure that we could safely feed our tribe. I’m not going to lie, I cried, screamed with delight and did a little dance when I received this email. The stress and anxiety of the whole situation coming to a head was all too much! Maria is nothing short of amazing, the knowledge and support this group brings to the community is truly invaluable!

I’m happy to report that our journey went off without a hitch. All of our flights arrived early, there were no queues at check-in, security or immigration, everything was quiet and calm, our arrival was one the smoothest travel experiences we’ve ever had. Everything was a handled meticulously, the police were waiting for us and were extremely kind. I don’t think I’ve ever been more impressed. It seems that waiting those extra few weeks worked in our favour.

Our accommodation has been superb. The staff here at Alcyone Hotel Residences have taken great care of us. Fortunately we have access to fresh air via our private balconies. We’ve been keeping busy playing games, doing online workouts and catching up with friends and family via video calls. It’s been hard being stuck in the one place and not letting the kids outside to play but this whole ordeal couldn’t have gone any better. We are aware of just how lucky we have been.

I often think of those suffering with coronavirus or in hotel quarantine that haven’t been as fortunate as us. I believe apartment accommodation should be the standard for hotel quarantine. Having access to fresh air, a kitchen and a laundry really are basic necessities.

We have been joking around saying this is sure to be the one and only time where having anaphylaxis has been a blessing and not a burden.

Here we are day 12 symptom free, counting down the days until we can return to society (at a distance of course), happy, healthy and forever grateful to Maria and her wonderful team at Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia.

Stay safe everyone,

The Skipsey’s

Content created 21 April 2020

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