This portrait of Steph by her mother Liz is reproduced here as one of only three recorded cases we currently know of where a healthy person has been struck down with invasive aspergillosis after an accidental exposure. We do not know if Steph accidentally inhaled a lot of aspergillus spores but it seems likely and serves to illustrate that these spores are too small to see – our best defence is to take note of the places where exposure is most likely to occur – read this leaflet for more information.
Stephs family and Lewis her partner have gone on to raise well over ten thousand pounds to help us research ways to detect aspergillosis earlier and to treat it more effectively.
Steph’s ambition, from a little girl, was to become a primary school teacher and she had strived so hard for four years for her B. Ed (Honours) Degree in Primary Teaching at Aberdeen University. A promising career which she was so suited and gifted to. She had been on her final three month placement in her former primary school in Nairn when she became unwell. At first it was thought that her symptoms were purely her asthma, and therefore this was what she was being treated for. However, on Tuesday, 31st. March, 2009, with her breathing causing her much distress, Steph was admitted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness with a serious asthma attack and within a few days she was diagnosed as suffering from the disease known as ‘aspergillus’. This dreadful disease tragically got a hold of Steph and her immune system was unable to fight it off. The disease had become so aggressive even in that short space of time that it literally invaded her lungs and body, and antibiotics, specifically for this type of fungal infection, were ineffective in treating her.
Aspergillus is an illness, which until it touched our lives in April 2009, was unknown to us. Steph, was a beautiful young woman, in every sense of the word, both inside and out and who at the age of 21 had a tremendous life ahead of her.A vibrant, caring, thoughtful young woman with a zest for life. She was a healthy and active young woman who was an accomplished highland dancer and ballet dancer, being a former member of the Scottish Ballet Junior Associate Scheme and also a member of Ballet West. She was a Young Leader within the Girl Guides working towards her Queens Badge, a former Head Girl of Nairn Academy and as a member of the school’s Samba Band travelled to Latvia and also played clarinet in the Inverness Wind Orchestra. An extremely active young girl where the word “No” was never part of her vocabulary. She had a heart of gold, was so selfless and with her trademark ‘smile’ she was immensely popular among her peers and was everybody’s’ friend. A very mild asthmatic all her life but it was a condition which never hindered her in her activities in her all too short life. Such wonderful times lay ahead for her but tragically, just a couple of months away from graduating, she was struck down with this dreadful disease which cost her her life.
Our lives have changed beyond recognition following Steph’s untimely loss. We truly hope that through our efforts we can spare another person suffering as Steph did, and also save another family from having to go through the pain of losing someone they love to this cruel and distressing illness. A loss which goes beyond measure.
It was a tremendous privilege to be invited to attend a private Graduation Ceremony at Aberdeen University, on 7th July 2009, in Steph’s honour,. where we were presented with her degree ~ B. Ed. Aegrotat Primary.
Liz Smiths tribute to her daughter – Patients Support Meeting Edinburgh 2010