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Courtney in 2000, in 2009, and in 2020
"Water should be safe for everyone,” says Lifewater donor who almost died from E. coli
Very few Lifewater Canada supporters have had to fight for their lives after drinking contaminated water.
But Courtney Bushell is one of them. Her battle for survival didn’t happen in the developing world, where experts say someone – usually a child – is dying every 20 seconds from diarrheal diseases caused by contaminated water and poor hygiene.
Courtney’s battle was in her hometown of Walkerton, ON.
Back in 2000, when she was only eight years old, prolonged spring rains caused cattle manure to contaminate the local water system – as it often does in the developing world. Walkerton’s municipal officials failed to respond properly, and that resulted in an E. coli outbreak which killed six people and sickened 2,000 more.
Some of the survivors experienced only mild stomach pain while others suffered much more. Courtney almost died.
She was rushed to the local hospital and connected to an IV unit to restore fluids, then air-lifted to the children’s hospital in London for surgery and dialysis to combat her failing kidneys and heart.
Courtney’s life was in danger for several days and she spent more than a month in hospital, plus several more resting at home, to fully recover.
The frightening experience led Courtney to help spearhead a fundraising drive at her school that enabled Lifewater Canada to drill a badly needed well and build communal toilets in Haiti.
“I know what it feels like to be in a life-or-death situation due to contaminated water,” Courtney said later, in explaining to Lifewater founder Jim Gehrels why she raised money for the charity. “Clean water is a simple yet life-changing gift.”
Today, Courtney is married with two small children who will likely never fight for their lives – as she and so many children in the developing world have had to fight – to overcome sickness from dirty water.
“Even though Walkerton has some of the safest water out there now, I still can’t drink it,” Courtney says from the stone farmhouse where she and her husband Rob live with their young boys. Their 100-acre farm is about 10 kilometers outside Walkerton.
“It’s for sure imbedded a scar in my life and I’m a little bit traumatized still to this day. But I try to keep looking forward and see all that has come into my life. I am truly grateful to be alive and healthy.
"I know how important water is, and that everyone needs it to survive. Therefore, it should be safe for EVERYONE. No ifs, ands, or buts.”