Girl, 8, left with lifelong disabilities after living in mould-infested house

·News Reporter
·3-min read

An eight-year-old girl as been left with lifelong disabilities and nearly lost her life due to a silent killer inside her home.

Sienna Santiago became ill after living in a house riddled with dangerous amounts of mould.

She spent 11 days days in ICU and five weeks at Royal Darwin Hospital after the fungus ravaged her little body.

“Her vital organs shut down, she came out of there [surgery] two hours later on full life support,” her father, Stephen Thomson, told Nine News.

“I used to cry myself to sleep everyday, absolutely heartbroken.”

Sienna and her family (left) and Sienna in hospital (right)
Eight-year-old Sienna Santiago spent 11 days in ICU fighting for her life after she became seriously unwell as a suspected result of mould inside her family home. Source: Nine News

As a former police officer in the Northern Territory, Mr Thomson moved his family into police housing in Pirlangimpi in April 2017.

But by March 2019, Sienna was left clinging onto life after contracting a serious throat infection believed to have been caused by exposure to mould spores.

The family home in the NT
Sienna's family home was found to have "very high levels of mould" after her hospitalisation. Source: Nine News

“The specialist who saw her said she was the unluckiest girl in the world,” Mr Thomson told NT News.

“The epiglottis [lid that prevents food entering the lungs] was swollen and almost closed up completely. All around the epiglottis was a grey-green brown fluff, like decaying flesh.”

“It absolutely stunk. You gagged when she breathed.”

Doctors said the young girl’s immune system was suffering a breakdown, likely due to mould.

Three years on and little Sienna is still unable to move the left side of her face or blink her left eye, and has reduced feeling in her right toes – disabilities she is likely to face for the rest of her life.

A mouldy couch
Doctors said Sienna was 'the unluckiest girl in the world" after contracting a serious throat infection, believed to have been caused by mould inside the family home. Source: Nine News

Her family, who now live in New Zealand, said they repeatedly reported the wide-spread mould to NT Police for years before Sienna got sick, but their complaints were ignored.

“We’ve had no compensation from NT police, and they have never admitted that they failed us by ignoring our calls for help,” Mr Thomson said.

A report carried out after the little girl was hospitalised found “very high levels of mould” inside the home constituting a health hazard and “therefore continued use of the accessed premises must not be permitted".

It went on to state that “access to the premises are restricted and shall only be accessed by persons wearing approved personal protective equipment.”

A mould report
A report found "very high amounts of mould" inside the home and warned those entering must wearing PPE. Source: Nine News

NT WorkSafe told Yahoo News Australia that it has since launched an investigation after new details came to light in May.

It says the information alleges that “the issue of mould was reported to NT Police before the child was admitted to hospital” and detailed “the deterioration of the child’s health, including medical opinion confirming the probable link of their illness to mould exposure".

In a statement to Yahoo News Australia, NT Police said NT WorkSafe is reviewing the matter and that it would be appropriate to “leave WorkSafe to complete their inquiries”.

The incident has also been raised with the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.

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