Local resident takes us inside her time in hotel quarantine

LOCAL STORY

Jeremy Lebeuf

Feature Writer

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Local woman Chrissy Gilewicz Sands (left) just moments after being reunited with her daughter Michaela Gilewicz, after 14 days in mandatory hotel quarantine. Image: Supplied.
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The words “mandatory hotel quarantine” have been spoken about a lot recently but what is it actually like?

Longtime local, avid community member and Neighborhood Centre Support Worker, Chrissy Gilewicz Sands, shares how she coped during a 14-day mandatory hotel quarantine in Tasmania as she yearned to meet her 6-week old grandchild.

There’s something about hearing ‘government mandatory isolation period’ that conjures up visions of hiding out from a stalking predator that invokes fear and anxiety rather than a time that can be used to reflect, focus on self-care and betterment.

However, a healthy sense of self and the support from a loved inner circle, can make an unexpected seclusion a lot easier.

Chrissy had intended for a relaxing and quaint isolation, “I booked a cute little B&B cottage, I envisioned sipping my coffee in tranquillity – I travelled with my yoga mat - I was going to enjoy that practice every day,” she said.

As quickly and painful as a swab test, restrictions changed when her plane landed on Tassie soil. Chrissy’s charming isolation plans went sideways, and she was to be put in mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days.

“I was escorted off the plane and brought to the hotel. I thought they made a mistake – I wasn’t meant to be in hotel quarantine.

“But when I looked out the window of my hotel room, I noticed a hospital, it was the same care ward that my Dad had spent his final 8 days in… I realised I’m in a much better place than most."

Chrissy’s hotel window became her haven, looking out to the city and the river she felt connected and grateful to all the life that flows from outside her temporary quarters. 

From the first of many care packages that she received, there was a surprise pair of binoculars, a bit odd. However, the peculiar gift gave her a lifeline - she was able to look through her widow of salvation down to her daughter and grandchildren while hearing their longing voices over the phone.

Isolation can make you feel more tired just from your brain trying to process what is going on and how to cope. Days without direction, being locked in a room, escorted by security guards, having to wear gloves and a mask and your meals dropped outside your door - as each day passes, life can feel more like survivalism.

“We were being treated like we were all carriers of COVID,” she said.

As we have seen from other parts of the country a bungled procedure or people not following protocols in hotel quarantine can wreak chaos on large communities, we can’t afford to be complacent.

Chrissy was unwaveringly appreciative for everything during her time, “People need to be compliant. This needs to happen to keep everyone safe.

“It is comforting to know my 78-year-old mother is safer from everyone doing this period of quarantine,” she said.

Keeping her mind, body and spirituality healthy was key for Chrissy to come out the other side in a positive mindset, well that and isolation goodies sent from family and friends.

A routine of making her bed every morning, booking time to exercise - which was literally running in the basement back and forth for 30 minutes in full mask and gloves, a small space for yoga in her room and meditation were all part of her self-care rituals. 

The food was nothing to write home about, but she noted that it all came in disposable containers and needed to be double-bagged to prevent contamination, that struck home how serious this was.

Privacy had two settings – she was either under a keen watchful eye when out of her room or in solitude while enclosed in her four walls.

Chrissy eventually got used to the security guards always being around whenever she went to exercise and even when she tried to reawaken her tap dancing legs, the security guard noticed and questioned if she was doing it for Tik Toc.

It was in her last two days she started to feel anxious- thinking about her daughter and family – the thought of how things could change so rapidly in these new times so close to the end of her quarantine.
  
Tears welled on her final basement run, as Chrissy became emotional about the certainty of seeing them and giving them one of those tight, long hugs - the kind of hug you never want to let go from.

14 days and two negative tests later she was released from her mandatory hotel quarantine, elated to meet her family outside the hotel - even though it may have been a little strange for her grandchildren to see their Nan in full gloves and masks.

“I’m going to squeeze as much as I can from this visit - It’ll go by quickly, and who knows when I’ll be able to come back due to COVID.

“None of us really knows,” she said.

It is a harsh reality for anyone with loved ones living in a place where mandatory hotel quarantine is required – monetarily with the additional costs as well as logistically of the extra time needed.

For Chrissy during those 14 days, it truly hit hard that the simple things become what really matter. When life is stripped down to its core essentials, gratitude overwhelms, and it is the love of family and friends that matters most.

“The contact from the outside meant so much to me. The positivity from family and friends on social pages and messages, the calls and chats made me feel loved and cared for.

“If you know anyone who is in mandatory quarantine, reach out to them – tell them how much you love them – send them positive messages, that might just be exactly what they need to get through the days,” urges Chrissy.

At the time of writing this Chrissy has been out of her mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine for two days and is still in Tasmania for another 2 weeks embracing each moment with her family and no doubt spoiling her grandchildren.



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