Aussie traveller Shelley Hill, left, has come down with a severe strain of malaria after being told she didn’t need antimalarial medication in Cambodia during dry season.
Aussie traveller Shelley Hill, left, has come down with a severe strain of malaria after being told she didn’t need antimalarial medication in Cambodia during dry season.

Doctor’s bad advice almost cost her life

SHELLEY Hill was in Cambodia with the best of intentions.

The 46-year-old, from Byron Bay in NSW, headed to the South East Asian country last month to volunteer at an elephant rescue sanctuary, where she helped treat sick and abused elephants in the jungle regions of Mondulkiri. It was a trip she'd dreamt of for a long time.

Before heading off, the fit and healthy Ms Hill checked in with her GP to ask about any vaccinations she needed. Her doctor told her that as she was travelling to Cambodia during the dry season, antimalarial medication wasn't necessary.

That proved to be terrible advice.

At some point during Ms Hill's seven-day trip, she was bitten by a mosquito and contracted a strain of malaria so serious she's been on life support, has experienced organ shutdown, and is facing the possibility of multiple amputations.

Her friend Mel Wilson said Ms Hill felt unwell soon after arriving home in Australia. A doctor's visit and blood tests confirmed "the most severe strain of malaria" and she was rushed to the intensive care unit at a northern NSW hospital, where spent five days on life support in an unstable condition.

Thankfully, Ms Hill is now off life support, but requires daily dialysis for kidney and liver problems, Ms Wilson told news.com.au.

Shelley Hill is no longer on life support but remains on dialysis.
Shelley Hill is no longer on life support but remains on dialysis.

A group of close friends, including Ms Wilson, are sitting by Ms Hill's hospital bedside. They launched a GoFundMe campaign two days ago to raise money for Ms Hill's massive medical costs as she faces an uncertain outlook.

The infection has caused necrosis, which may lead to amputation.
The infection has caused necrosis, which may lead to amputation.

"She is waiting to see a vascular surgeon in regards to amputation - maybe fingers, maybe hands, maybe also some toes from irreversible necrosis that she suffered from lack of blood circulation," Ms Hill said.

"[I'm feeling] much better now that she is off life support and breathing on her own [but] still concerned about her mental health coming out the other side and what permanent damage she may have to her organs, and hands and feet."

Shelley Hill, left, did everything right before her trip. Picture: Mel Wilson
Shelley Hill, left, did everything right before her trip. Picture: Mel Wilson

Malaria, a potentially fatal infection of the liver and red blood cells, is a significant health problem around the world, including parts of South East Asia. It's curable if diagnosed and treated quickly and correctly.

The eastern Mondulkiri region of Cambodia, where Ms Hill visited, is at significant risk of malaria. While no antimalarial medication is 100 per cent effective, a properly prescribed drug may have prevented her extremely serious illness.

Ms Wilson said she believed her friend received bad medical advice.

Ms Hill with friends Mel and Tracey, who are now by her side in hospital.
Ms Hill with friends Mel and Tracey, who are now by her side in hospital.

"I have engaged a solicitor to assist in any possible legal action," she said.

"She was infected with the most fatal form of malaria with a 50 per cent mortality rate."

Donors have already contributed more than $33,000 to Ms Hill's fundraising page on GoFundMe, which will be put towards her current and future medical costs.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urges Australian travellers to visit their GP before travelling to Cambodia to ask about protection against malaria, as well as dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis, both of which are widespread in the country.



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