A BALLARAT woman was forced to say goodbye to her dying mother for the final time, or risk being separated from her three young children for months on the other side of the world.
The woman, who asked not to be named, is among thousands of overseas Australians urged to return home this week as Prime Minister Scott Morrison moved to close the country's borders.
She will be self-isolating for 14 days on arrival home, after what has been an incredibly tough week for her family overseas and in Australia.
She flew to the UK on March 12 after an early-morning call from her father to say her sick mother was terminally ill and the family needed to say their goodbyes.
She left her three children, aged five, three and six-months, behind in Ballarat with her husband.
Her mother has ongoing respiratory issues and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which makes her prone to lung infections. Her current infection caused widespread damage, to the point she will not recover.
Due to the intense impact of COVID-19 on the UK hospital system and lack of resources, her mother was taken off a respiratory machine in an intensive care unit and moved to a ward with lesser oxygen, so younger people requiring ICU treatment could be given priority.
"Doctors are having to make all sorts of awful decisions and triaging patients," the Ballarat woman said.
If that wasn't distressing enough, the government's urging for Australians to get home as quickly as they could, caught the young mother by surprise, having not been aware of the escalating situation when she left Melbourne last week.
"I was already incredibly anxious being away from my children, having never been away from them before for longer than a couple of hours," she said.
"But it has been incredibly scary not knowing if I'm going to be able to get home and be stuck overseas for a few months."
Back home, her husband struggled finding nappies and formula amid the panic buying and locals rallied behind the family to help get them through.
On Friday evening, she was among thousands of Australians nervously awaiting their flights home at Heathrow Airport, with a large police presence.
"There's a lot of people around me talking about their flights being cancelled, so it's a bit stressful," she said.
"It's so scary travelling at the moment - I just want to be home."