Seventeen years old, living on the family farm in western Victoria with her life ahead of her. It all sounds idyllic for Holly Draffin, until she was struck down with Lyme disease in April 2022.
Forced to take time off school, she filled in the time showing off her family’s historic property to the wider community through her Instagram account, Emu Hill Ag. She describes the immense response as a positive light in a dark situation.
This is the first time Holly has spoken publicly about her diagnosis but is doing so, in the hope that it will help others. She was a healthy year 10 student who was heavily involved in sport, including rowing and netball.
“Life was pretty good,” she says. It was on a school camp in central Australia that things turned.”
I fell very ill. Once I came home, I was still so sick. I thought it would last a couple of weeks, but I never recovered.
Holly’s parents went on a quest for answers with most doctors diagnosing it as a viral infection. “My whole life was turned upside down. I was getting sicker and sicker, and I had no idea why.”
The symptoms included brain fog, fatigue, migraines, muscle aches and the inability to sit or walk. “Think of a symptom and I had it,” she shares.
The family finally found a specialist that tested for Lyme disease. The test was positive, and it was determined she had been bitten by a mosquito bite at the school camp.
“Locally acquired Lyme disease is not recognised in Australia, so the treatment was extremely limited,” says Holly.
Mexico bound for treatment
Holly tried antibiotics but with no effect. The only option left was to go overseas to Mexico for treatment. “Mum and I went. That was pretty big for our family because we never separate. That was quite hard,” Holly recalls. Her treatment included hypothermia which was incredibly traumatic.
I can’t remember much about being there because I was so sick.
“What I do remember is sitting on the couch in the hospital and Hamish, my brother, had sent me some drone videos of the farm and asked me to edit them together.”
That was the beginning of Emu Hill Ag. Holly found joy and purpose in editing and posting videos from her family farm, whilst she was so far from home. “My passion came through in the darkest of times. That was the thing that kept me going and gave me a sense of achievement. I really needed that.”
Holly still can’t attend school or regular activities, so she spends the small windows of time in which she has energy to create and post videos. It has ended up being a community in its own right, with connections forged among people across the world.
Farmers all over the district now ask Hamish and Holly to shoot and edit videos of their own farms to keep as a lasting memory.
“Once I made my first video, I just knew I wanted to keep doing this. I think in the future, I will be doing this in some way. I love making videos.”
Holly loves the anonymity of her work. Others often assume she’s a young male farmer who has a passion for videography. The attention her account receives has come as a huge surprise.
“I know I will get better, and Emu Hill Ag has just really helped me look towards the future.”
She hopes the future involves continuing to bridge the gap between the city and the country and to inspire and educate about agriculture. “So many viewers have no idea what it takes to get food on the plate. We don’t just show machinery, we show sheep as well. All the processes. I love that.”
And judging by the number of followers, plenty of others love that too.