LIFESAVING: Holly Aspinall and her family soon found out that her tanks were responsible for the life-threatening bacterial infection.
LIFESAVING: Holly Aspinall and her family soon found out that her tanks were responsible for the life-threatening bacterial infection.

Heartwarming aid after tank water leads to deadly infection

FOR 16-year-old Warwick girl Holly Aspinall, running the taps isn’t water wasting, it is life saving — but when drought hit, the teenager was looking down the barrel of permanent lung damage.
The Assumption College student suffers from Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a condition that means even a common cold could land her in a Brisbane hospital under specialist care for weeks.

So when she started heading regularly to hospital with a recurring pseudomonas infection (a common bacteria), her family began to worry.

“The thing that was pushed onto us from the beginning of our CF journey was that pseudomonas can cause a lot of damage if left untreated in CF lungs,” mum Jody said.

“To a point where a lung transplant could be needed.”

Concerned, the family soon got their water tested which confirmed one of their biggest fears.

The tanks on the family’s Wildash property contained a multitude of bacteria which could be life threatening to Holly, according to dad Darren.

“Most people who have a tank would have it (pseudomonas) and most people would carry it,” he said.

“Me and Jo could have it in our nasal cavities but it doesn’t affect us to the way it affects Holly.”

The most likely way the bacteria was entering Holly’s lungs was via build-up in the water vapour.

One way to minimise that risk was to leave the showers and taps running, but when drought hit, that solution soon ceased to be a possibility.

“We became so low on water, that we couldn’t afford to be wasting water,” Jody said.

“We also had a lot of dust storms so water was really dirty too,” Holly added.

To make matters worse, early 2020 bushfire smoke and ash meant the tank water became virtually undrinkable.

A $13,000 specialised water filter was the ultimate answer to Holly’s worries, but since NDIS does not cover CF, Jody and Darren would be left to pay for the item out of pocket.

“There’s just not a lot a support for CF in the medical world,” Jody said.

“CF QLD has very minimal support, only around $150 a member per year.”

Holly Aspinall can now pour herself a glass water without fear of bacterial contamination.
Holly Aspinall can now pour herself a glass water without fear of bacterial contamination.

On top of medication, physical therapy and other specialist medical costs, it was a cure the Aspinalls couldn’t afford.

That was until a heartwarming grant by Variety Queensland changed their luck.

In the past, the Queensland non-for profit had helped Holly afford a nebuliser and an airconditioner for her room, but offering to buy the filter was priceless.

While the infection had colonised in Holly’s lungs, since the filter had been installed, she had been to visit the hospital less and was even more “hopeful” for the future.

“You can just taste the water quality is better,” she said.

Darren said he couldn’t imagine what Holly would be like without the charity’s help.

“Variety do a great support for people like us that fall between the cracks,” Darren said.

“CF is not a common disease, and we get zero government so Variety really fills the void.”

Variety Queensland CEO Steve Wakerley said the charity was committed to improving the lives of Queensland children.

“At Variety – the Children’s Charity, we believe that all kids deserve a fair go in life – kids just like Holly. We’re grateful for all the support we receive from Queenslanders to help Holly and other kids who live with sickness, disadvantage or disability,” he said.

To donate to Variety to help more kids like Holly, go to variety.org.au/qld



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