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  • Dean Stephens

    Email: dstephens@abcnews4.com Reporter Profile




Liza's life: A Father's Warning

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Liza Hollingsworth (Provided) Liza Hollingsworth (Provided)

By Dean Stephens
dstephens@abcnews4.com

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCIV) -- A family suffered an unimaginable loss two years ago. An innocent enough birthday party turned deadly.

For the first time Dunn Hollingsworth is sharing his daughter's story. It's a trip he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy.

"Nobody deserves this.. Nobody.. Nobody should have to do this," Hollingsworth said as he drove his BMW through his neighborhood streets.

But it is a trip Dunn Hollingsworth makes weekly.

"For the unfortunate fraternity of which I am now a member, very few people understand or can comprehend," Hollingsworth said as he turned into a local cemetery.

He took a tearful walk to visit a daughter taken too soon.

"We used to call her Liza bug when she was a kid. She was always a kid. She will always be a kid," Hollingsworth said as he fought back tears.

"She had the most beautiful blue eyes you'd ever see."

And Liza's life was as bright as those brilliant blues.

"She played guitar, great artist and a water fiend. She would go to the beach grab a boogy board and stay in the water for hours and hours," Hollingsworth said. 

It was the love of water that led to Liza's untimely death.

"Liza was in the water with a bunch of little girls at a birthday party when it happened," Hollingsworth said.

But not just any body of water. It was shallow, stagnant and heated by the Charleston summer and prime breeding ground for an amoeba commonly found in freshwater.

"If you happen to be in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time and one of the drops of water gets in the air and if it happens to get up your nose..." Hollingsworth explained. 

Then it can be deadly. It attacks the brain and proves fatal in just a matter of days.

"Liza came up and said 'I don't feel good, daddy my head hurts a little bit.' She was throwing up. We thought it was a bug. That was on a Saturday morning. Sunday morning she woke up and was delirious," Hollingsworth said with a trembling voice.

"That evening it started to get bad. We took her to the hospital. They sedated her that night, and she died Monday afternoon, late."

Ten-year-old Liza Hollingsworth died of amoebic meningitis. Less than 10 days after contracting the disease.

"From a happy beautiful 10-year-old little girl... Yeah, it was sudden and shocking,"Hollingsworth said as tears rolled down his cheeks.

Liza's legacy is far-reaching. A garden was built at Porter-Gaud in her memory.

"Two of her teachers wrote notes that said she was the kind of student that they went into teaching for. She got it," Hollingsworth said. 

At Pet Helpers on Folly road,  a sign hangs from a tree that was dedicated to Liza for her volunteer work. Even in death, no stone was left unturned. Fifty-thousand dollars was donated in Liza's name to help animals in need.

Most days are difficult for Dunn Hollingsworth. Breaths are hard to come by...

"It is hard to move on. I'm not doing this story for me. I'm hopeful doing this story will educate somebody. So somebody one time will make the decision so no one has to go through this. If one person says I'm not going to let my child go swimming in that hot, stagnant, shallow pond in the summer because I don't want to take that risk..." Dunn Hollingsworth said. 

For 10 years, he was wrapped around Liza's finger. Now she's wrapped around her daddy's wrist as Hollingsworth wears a Remember Liza-Amoeba Awareness bracelet.

"It is one of those things that never leaves you. Today is her birthday. She would have been 12 today, May 11th," he said as he wiped away tears on his face.

His Liza bug left a lasting impression, and she may not be done if a lost life can help save a life this summer.

"Something good... Something good has to come out of it," he said moments before leaning over to kiss Liza's headstone.

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