When Bettina Rowley’s two young children, aged 5 and 3, tested positive to coronavirus, she and the kids were isolated in a hospital room.
- Siblings Charlotte and Frederick Rowley both developed high temperatures and dry coughs in a matter of hours
- The people working in the hospital taught Ms Rowley how to work the machines so they would not have to enter the room too much
- After being diagnosed with coronavirus Charlotte had a sore throat and lost her sense of taste
“[The staff] said to us, ‘Look, we don’t want to come in here too often, only in an absolute emergency’. So they showed me how to work the machines,” Ms Rowley said.
“As a mum, you’re just like, ‘oh my gosh’.
“They’re always saying kids don’t get sick. Now you are in hospital with both of your kids and you feel very, very lonely and very scared.”
The Rowley family live in the German town of Fussen near Munich, but for 11 years they lived on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, where Charlotte, 5, and Frederick, 3, were both born.
Ms Rowley said Charlotte and Frederick are normally “both really active, crazy little beings”, but that changed a few weeks ago.
“It was a warmer day so we were outside, the kids were playing, we’re all fine. And then by 6:00pm they just looked really, really rundown,” she said.
“I thought, ‘Oh geez, they’re coming down with something’. And then two hours later they both, like clockwork — and it had never happened before — they both had over 40-degree temperatures.
Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak
- Download the ABC News app and subscribe to our range of news alerts for the latest on how the pandemic is impacting the world
- You can also get up-to-date information on the Federal Government’s Coronavirus Australia app, available on the App Store, Google Play and the Government’s WhatsApp channel.
“I did say to my husband, ‘Do you really think? Could this be the coronavirus?’ And we were like, ‘Nah, surely not’.”
Ms Rowley called their doctor and got the children tested. Twenty-four hours later both kids developed a dry cough.
“Then the paediatrician called and said ‘yes, they’ve tested negative for the flu and positive for coronavirus,” Ms Rowley said.
Health authorities called Ms Rowley later that day.
“I said, ‘Look, I don’t know what to do. I can’t control the temperatures and they’re starting to drink less and less’. She said, ‘Please get your paediatrician to admit you to hospital’.”
Ms Rowley said that while they were in hospital in Bavaria the kids’ “white blood cells were just so low they actually had no immune system left”.
“We were lucky it never got to the lungs,” she said.
“My daughter kept saying her throat is so sore, she can’t taste anything, so she didn’t want to eat.
“And my son just slept quite a lot. And for them [to go from] being so active to just lying in a bed, that meant they were really quite unwell.”
Andrew Steer, who leads the infection and immunity research team at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, said around 4 per cent of coronavirus cases in Australia are in children.
“Because the disease appears to be mild in children, it may be actually that there are more cases in children,” Professor Steer said.
“There is in the community concern that children might be super spreaders, and the evidence that we have today is that that’s not the case, but I think we need to do more research.”
Both Charlotte and Frederick have recovered and are now back at home with their parents.
Ms Rowley said she and her husband had no idea where their children picked the virus up.
“I’ve been thinking about this over and over, where could we get this from?” she said.
“I’ve been thinking maybe I brought it home from the shops. We can’t explain it.
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
- Australians have done what we had hoped — and more. They have stayed at home. They have self-isolated
- The fight to contain the onslaught of coronavirus is bearing results and the economy is responding to the recent stimulus
“They were still in kindergarten before the whole shutdown happened here. Who knows if it’s from there? Day care, schools, it’s just a breeding ground.”
Ms Rowley said it was not easy to go public with their story, but hoped it might act as a warning to others.
“We did this so that other people are aware and parents are aware this can happen,” she said.
“It is important to listen to the health professionals and look after your families now.”
Watch this story on 7.30.
What you need to know about coronavirus: