Zen’s Harry Potter-themed birthday party was cancelled when he was diagnosed with the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Instead, he will celebrate his seventh birthday today in the quarantine ward of the Gold Coast University Hospital.
He was transported by ambulance late on Sunday, after the school he attends was caught up in the coronavirus cluster that is rapidly spreading among several Brisbane schools.
Because Zen has a pre-existing medical condition, his parents said they did everything they could to protect him from the virus, including being fully vaccinated themselves and conscious of following Queensland Health directives.
Both of his parents have tested negative for the disease.
Zen’s mother, who did not wish to be identified, said now was the time to listen to the health advice.
“Seeing all these little children getting carried away in ambulances in the middle of the night should be a reminder that the rules for quarantine and lockdown are in place to protect our most vulnerable,” she said.
“Staying at home when you are told to, getting tested if you have symptoms, and getting a vaccine if you have access to it, is showing care and solidarity to those who are in the highest risk groups — be they your children, parents or grandparents.
“I can’t even imagine how I would have been able to care for my son if I had developed a full-blown disease.
“At this point, being vaccinated means that I can support him if he needs me.”
Strict hygiene measures are in place at the COVID-19 ward limiting any contact between Zen and his mum with the outside world.
The pair only have direct human interaction three times a day when meals are delivered to their room.
Queensland COVID-19 snapshot:
They have access to one window that cannot be opened and the constant humming of the ventilation system makes it hard for them to sleep.
“When we got here, we were taken from the ambulance onto wheelchairs and wheeled in to reduce our contact with surfaces,” she said.
“A staff member walked behind us with a mop and disinfectant and cleaned the floors where the wheelchairs touched.
“We also had a guard walking in front to make sure no other patients were around the corridors.
“The COVID-19 ward has secure doors … and a lot of red warning signs placed before the entrance.
“Most say things like ‘Stop!’, ‘Do not enter’, giving the place a bit of an ominous feeling.”
‘I really miss my dad’
Despite the sterile hospital surroundings, Zen is using his time in quarantine to read his Harry Potter books and draw – Bluey is a favourite.
He does not even mind the hospital food.
“I know the hardest part for him will be not being able to get a cuddle from his dad, which we both miss very much,” his mum said.
“That always makes us a bit teary at bedtime.”
Zen has made the most of his birthday celebrations and has a message for the thousands of other Queenslanders locked in quarantine or separated from loved ones.
“The hospital is the safest place to be if you get any symptoms,” he said.
“The nurses are always here to take care of you and they would know what to do if you get sick.
“But I really miss my dad and on my birthday I will Facetime with him — I hate being away from Dad.”
Zen’s father was able to sneak a single birthday present into Zen’s backpack before he was taken into isolation and his school friends are on standby for a video birthday call today.