A brave 20-year-old with a chronic lung disease is pleading with Bradford people to help her buy vital medical equipment which could transform her life.
Holly May Humphrey desperately needs money so she can keep a special ‘Vest’ which helps her breathe.
She currently has the £7,000 ‘Vest’ on loan, and she fears the makers could reclaim it unless she comes up with some cash soon.
Without the equipment, Holly fears one of her regular asthma attacks could be her last. But her condition means she can’t work or fundraise and is often wheelchair-bound.
She says The Vest works so well she “has only had pneumonia twice since using it.”
A friend who is championing her cause says Holly’s plight is desperate.
“It is heart-wrenching,” said Michele Cavallin, who met Holly at Taekwondo contests where they both competed. “How can she fundraise when she is stuck indoors most of the time?”
Taekwondo world champion Michele says an appeal launched for Holly has met with a dismal response.
“She has helped other people through fundraising most of her life and now she needs help herself,” said Michele. “We are in despair.”
Holly’s condition means mucous doesn’t move properly through her lungs. The Vest literally shakes her lungs to help shift mucous so she can breathe more easily. Without it, she needs manual physiotherapy for an hour a day.
And her condition is deteriorating. Last month she had to leave her job as a nursing home carer as her health had become so poor. “I was taking too much time off,” said Holly, from Queensbury.
The former Taekwondo student, who loves to be active, has morphine daily just to get by and spends a lot of time in hospital battling to breathe.
A brittle asthmatic, she has regular life-threatening attacks and without The Vest these are more severe.
“It means one day an attack could be my last,” she said. “The thought of this beating me scares me.”
Two years ago, The Vest makers Hill-Rom gave Holly the equipment with a view to buy while she used. Holly says the cost was around £80 a month for The Vest, which is not available on the NHS. But now she can’t afford to pay.
“I can’t work. I don’t have benefits,” she said. “It is so stressful.”
She says Hill-Rom said recently that they would need £1,400 or The Vest might have to go back.
Holly has had the steadily worsening condition for around ten years. “I take lots of medication to manage the condition, but The Vest has helped a lot. But lately I have avoided using it. I don’t want to get used to the benefits in case it is taken away.”
Michele says Holly’s appeal has so far raised only £700. “It is such a shame,” she said. “When she became too ill to compete at Taekwondo, she would come and umpire or referee – sometimes bringing a bag of oxygen with her to enable her to cope. She is amazing.”
Holly says she wants to live independently ‘like a normal 20-year-old’. A fund has been set up for donations to her cause. For more details, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Hill-Rom managing director Leslie Smith said The Vest would not be taken away from Holly, even though she has not paid anything under the scheme which has allowed her to use the equipment with a view to eventual purchase.
"We are trying hard to resolve this problem and are working with Michele Cavallin to sort out the finance,” he said. “This is very expensive equipment and we can't just give it away. This is a difficult situation but we will find a solution somehow."
Mr Smith said Hill-Rom would also work with Holly’s consultant in a bid to get The Vest paid for through the NHS.
HOW THE VEST SYSTEM WORKS
The Vest Airway Clearance System is a unique therapy system designed to help mobilise pulmonary secretions through high-frequency chest wall oscillation.
The Vest system consists of an inflatable vest connected by tubes to an air pulse generator. This rapidly inflates and deflates the vest, compressing and releasing the chest wall.
The rapid chest movement mimics small coughs which dislodge and thin mucous, moving it along the airways.
The Vest therapy treats all lobes of the lungs at the same time. It can benefit patients in acute and post-acute facilities as well as in the home.