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Uninsured tourist dies from infection

By Elizabeth Binning

Tayla Storm fell in love with New Zealand and did not want to die leaving her bills unpaid. Photo / Supplied
Tayla Storm fell in love with New Zealand and did not want to die leaving her bills unpaid. Photo / Supplied

South African tourist Tayla Storm has lost her battle against a deadly bug that struck her down in the middle of her first overseas trip.

The 29-year-old died in Auckland City Hospital yesterday, nearly five months after she excitedly arrived in New Zealand to meet her sister's newborn baby for the first time.

The childcare student, who didn't have travel insurance, was six weeks into her trip when she experienced an intense pain in her upper thigh.

She was rushed to hospital, where doctors found a Staphylococcus aureus infection had poisoned the blood, triggering a massive organ failure.

Despite predictions that she was unlikely to survive that night, Miss Storm battled bravely during the past few months - so much so that just two weeks ago, doctors were discussing rehabilitation and plans for her to be home by Christmas.

But the infection returned last week and because her immune system was so weakened from all her treatment, nothing else could be done for her.

Sister-in-law Cheryl Stone told the Herald the family had been keeping a bedside vigil and sleeping in Miss Storm's room since being told about her deteriorating condition.

After spending Tuesday night at her bedside, Miss Storm's two Auckland-based sisters left so they could go home briefly and refresh.

They were planning what time to return when hospital staff called to say her breathing had become very shallow and family should gather as soon as possible.

"We unfortunately arrived too late and she had passed away very peacefully with two of Tayla's wonderful nurses both holding a hand each," said Mrs Stone.

"The family are so grateful to her nurses that she did not die alone. We know how much her nurses loved her."

Mrs Stone said the family were "absolutely devastated" but wanted to thank staff at Auckland City Hospital who "have just been so amazing in caring for Tayla through her illness".

Plans are now under way for a funeral service and cremation this week. Miss Storm's ashes will then be divided - half will stay in New Zealand and half will be returned to her mother in South Africa.

Mrs Stone said the family wanted to thank members of the public who had sent cards to Miss Storm and who donated to an appeal account set up to help pay her medical bills of more than $300,000.

Mrs Stone said her sister-in-law fell in love with New Zealand and did not want to die leaving an unpaid debt.

"Tayla's wish was to raise money to pay her medical bills and we are happy to report that two medical bills have today been paid ...

"However, the largest medical bill [for Auckland City Hospital], which is over $300,000, remains unpaid. We are hoping to continue fundraising to try to get as much of this paid as possible."

The chief medical officer of the Auckland District Health Board, Margaret Wilsher, extended the board's condolences to Miss Storm's family.

She said it was too early to discuss the issue of the outstanding bill.

"It's insensitive to be commenting on financial matters right now and we will be in contact with Tayla's family at a more appropriate time."

A spokesman told the Herald last week that the hospital usually tried to recover outstanding bills from a deceased person's estate. At times, that meant the next-of-kin or other family.

Donations to the Tayla Storm Appeal Account, which has raised nearly $7000 dollars, can be made at any BNZ or online into the account 02-0108-0163899-000.

- NZ Herald

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