3 Dec 2016

Family strive to bring 'storm asthma' victim back to NZ

6:34 pm on 3 December 2016

The daughter of a New Zealand man who died from thunderstorm asthma in Melbourne says she just wants to bring her father's body home.

Former Wellington man Sam Lau died after a storm caused respiratory problems for thousands of people in Melbourne.

Former Wellington man Sam Lau died after a storm caused respiratory problems for thousands of people in Melbourne. Photo: Supplied

Last week hospitals were overwhelmed when a cool change and storm caused respiratory problems for thousands of people, with more than 8500 attending emergency departments.

Eight people died as a result of respiratory problems, including former Wellington man Sam Lau, who was 49.

He father suffered a severe asthma attack on 21 November, and died in a Melbourne hospital eight days later.

Mr Lau's family has launched a Givealittle page to help cover the cost of bringing his body back to New Zealand, and his funeral.

Daughter Sheila Lau said her father moved to Melbourne a year ago with her mother and two younger siblings to give them more opportunities.

She said he had started to suffer from mild asthma in his thirties. On the day he was admitted to hospital, he returned home after picking up her younger brother and sister and felt unwell.

Ms Lau said her father asked her mother to call an ambulance and it took 40 minutes to arrive because the emergency system was overwhelmed.

"My dad couldn't breath, his heart stopped, the neighbours were able to come over and perform CPR on Dad and get his heart going again, but then he was taken straight to the intensive care unit at Austin Hospital in Heidelberg."

Ms Lau said because New Zealand was home for the family they wanted to bring his body back.

"We're just struggling a bit financially at the moment to be able to come up with those funds at such short notice, so that's why I started the Givealittle page."

She said a lot of her family and friends were rallying around them and supporting them.

On the Givealittle page, she described Mr Lau as a man who always put his family first and worked hard to provide for his four children.

He was the sole earner in the house as his wife has to stay home to look after their youngest children, aged 10 and three, she said.


Photo: AFP

A humid weather change in Melbourne last Monday caused pollen, most likely from rye grass, to burst into tiny particles that were able to be inhaled through the nose and enter the lungs.

It caused many people, including those who had no history of asthma or respiratory issues, to experience mild to severe breathing difficulties.

One man described the feeling as being like an elephant standing on his chest.

The Victorian government has announced it would review authorities' ability to respond to medical emergencies following the outbreak.


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