For the love of Billy: family's plea for asthma awareness

WHEN 10-year-old Billy Leadbeatter died on the lawns of the Macarthur Community Health centre on December 1 he left behind not only a loving family but a town shocked by how easily a young life had slipped away.

Billy died from a severe asthma attack despite the best efforts of his family, community members and emergency services.

His heartbroken mother Donna Nunan yesterday described him a “happy-go-lucky, funny, smart little fella’’ who had long fought against asthma.

“Unfortunately it beat him and we want to make more people understand this disease,” Miss Nunan said.

She also paid tribute to the people of Macarthur for the support the family had received since Billy’s death.

“Macarthur is filled with the most beautiful people,” the family said in a thank-you letter it gave to The Standard.

“They held us together through our tragic loss. We would like to thank the emergency services and our local policeman for their dedication. They tried so hard, we thank them for that so much.”

Ms Nunan said Billy had minor asthma trouble on the morning of Saturday, December 1 but had “breathed his way out of it”. Her boy had been troubled by asthma since he was three, suffering about one serious attack each year which would put him in hospital.

He had been trained in how to manage the attacks, doing breathing exercises and using a nebuliser to ease his laboured breathing. 

Miss Nunan said asthma had not held Billy back and he enjoyed both indoor and outdoor activities.

The boy’s second attack about 4pm that day was more severe and his family told him to use his nebuliser.

However, that had little effect and when Billy walked across the room to where his mother and sister, Natalie Bloor, 19, were preparing dinner, they immediately realised he was in serious trouble.

“I recognised the blue lips,” Miss Bloor said.

She quickly brought a car to the front of the house and carried Billy to it while Miss Nunan gathered the younger children to take them with her in a following car.

Miss Bloor rang an ambulance but ended the call to attend to Billy, who had collapsed.

The family lives on the Mount Eccles Road, a few kilometres outside of Macarthur, and Miss Bloor rushed Billy into the Macarthur Community Health centre. Her frantic calls on the doors of the closed centre roused a cleaner, who went for help.

Natalie again rang the ambulance service who told her to take the unconscious Billy out of the car and gave her instruction on how to apply CPR.

Soon after, Miss Nunan arrived after dropping off the young children at the home of a friend. The cleaner also returned to help.

Miss Bloor and the cleaner worked in shifts doing CPR before Macarthur policeman Leading Senior Constable David Rook arrived to take over.

Ambulances from Penshurst, Hamilton and Warrnambool began arriving within 15 minutes and their crews continued the desperate efforts to revive Billy for more than an hour and a half. When the air ambulance arrived its crew applied defibrillation to Billy’s heart but could not revive him.

Billy was buried on December 12 after what his mother said was “a beautiful ceremony” at the Uniting Church in Hamilton, attended by up to 200 people, many of them from the Macarthur community.

Billy’s death prompted the family to urge others to never underestimate the effects of asthma and to learn CPR. 

Billy’s  mother Donna Nunan and sister Natalie Bloor, 19, in the yard of their Macarthur home.

Billy’s mother Donna Nunan and sister Natalie Bloor, 19, in the yard of their Macarthur home.