Family’s shock after Ashley Timbery suddenly collapsed and later died due to mystery bacteria that attacked her internal organs

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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A family has been left heartbroken after a young woman was suddenly struck down with a mystery illness and died.

Ashley Timbery, 29, of Nowra on the NSW South Coast lost feeling in her legs on February 15 and collapsed before she was rushed to ICU at Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital.

Doctors placed her in an induced coma as they conducted tests which found a number of cavities in her lungs, leading them to determine she had a ‘superbug’ infection which was attacking her organs.

After 10 days at the Shoalhaven hospital Ms Timbery was moved to St George Hospital in Sydney where doctors found she had specifically contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). 

MRSA is a type of bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics, which makes infection by them extremely difficult to treat. 

According to the Mayo clinic most people get the infection in hospitals or other healthcare settings such as aged care facilities, but it is also present in the wider community. 

Ashley Timber, 29, collapsed on February 15 and later sadly died after an MRSA infection led to pneumonia 

Other groups who are at an elevated risk are athletes, those in confined places such as army barracks or prisons, drug users, the immunocompromised, and those who have recently had surgery – though it is not confined to these groups. 

Ms Timbery’s infection resulted in pneumonia which was her cause of death. 

Her cousin Shantelle Locke said there were no clear symptoms that Ms Timbery was seriously sick leading up to when she collapsed. 

‘Doctor seemed to think that she might have had the pneumonia for maybe a few weeks before she went to hospital, but she never got it treated and obviously didn’t know it was pneumonia,’ Ms Locke told Yahoo News.

Shantelle Lock (left) with her cousin Ashely Timbery (right) who she said had no obvious symptoms that she was seriously unwell

Shantelle Lock (left) with her cousin Ashely Timbery (right) who she said had no obvious symptoms that she was seriously unwell

Ms Timbery only felt slightly lethargic and had one or two boils, which is a symptom of the infection that can resemble large pimples.

Her right lung had collapsed in Shoalhaven Hospital from the pneumonia, which doctors drained and help to inflate, but her left lung did the same when she got to St George. 

‘The doctors showed us a CT scan showing a normal lung. Then they showed us hers (and) hers was just covered in holes,’ Ms Locke said. 

‘This was a result of her lungs being clogged from the pneumonia, and from the bug starting to sit in the cavities in her lungs.’

Ms Timbery died on February 29. 

Ms Locke said Ms Timbery’s mother in particular is struggling. 

‘Due to Ashley being so young we unfortunately didn’t have a funeral plan in place.’

The family is asking for donations to help with Ms Timbery’s funeral costs.


Staphylococcal, or ‘staph’, infections are caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus.

These can cause relatively minor skin infections, such as boils, as well as serious ones affecting the blood, lungs and heart.

Most infections are caused by a group of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus, which includes MRSA. MRSA is resistant to certain antibiotics.

Infections affecting the skin and soft tissue include:

  • Boils – red, painful lumps that usually develop on the neck, face, armpits or buttocks
  • Impetigo – causes sores, blisters and crusts; usually in children
  • Skin abscesses – a collection of pus that appears as a painful lump under the skin’s surface

Invasive infections include:

  • Endocarditis – infection of the inner heart lining, leading to fever, chest pain and coughing 
  • Pneumonia – lung infection that causes coughing, breathing difficulties and chest pain
  • Sepsis – a violent immune response leads to fever, and a rapid breathing and heart rate

Around one in three people carry Staph bacteria harmlessly on their skin. 

'Staph'infections can cause red, painful boils that typically develop on the face

‘Staph’infections can cause red, painful boils that typically develop on the face

It only causes problems when it enters the body via cuts, grazes or medical equipment.

Although healthy people can be affected, those with weakened immune systems, such as due to a side effect of chemotherapy, are more likely to suffer.

Boils and other more minor forms of infection do not typically require treatment.

Antibiotics may be given or a minor procedure to drain pus from the skin.

For invasive infections, hospital treatment is required, which usually involves antibiotic injections over several days.

People can help to prevent Staph infections by:

  • Washing their hands with soap and warm water frequently
  • Keeping skin clean
  • Not sharing towels, razors, bed linen or toothbrushes
  • Keeping cuts clean and covered 

Source: NHS Choices

SydneyNew South Wales


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