Free pro­gramme aids progress

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By TERESA HAT­TAN

Gerda Kruk­erink’s tale of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is one of strength and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

The Mata­mata woman has spent the past five years learn­ing to walk and move again after con­tract­ing menin­gi­tis and suf­fer­ing a stroke.

It was 2009 and Kruk­erink and her hus­band were vis­it­ing their son in Perth.

Re­turn­ing to New Zealand via Mel­bourne, Kruk­erink be­came un­well. She was later di­ag­nosed with menin­gi­tis.

‘‘They took me off the plane be­cause I was not re­act­ing nor­mally.’’

Kruk­erink stayed at a mo­tel after a doc­tor told her to ‘‘sleep it off’’ but her hus­band didn’t trust that di­ag­no­sis. He knew some­thing was wrong.

‘‘He took me to another doc­tor and they put me in hos­pi­tal and dur­ing the night they found out I had menin­gi­tis.’’

She was stuck in another coun­try, in a coma, bat­tling for her life.

Kruk­erink isn’t sure ex­actly how long she was in a coma for. It was pos­si­bly two weeks be­fore she woke up.

She then slipped back into a coma after a stroke.

Kruk­erink said it was dis­ori­ent­ing to wake up first in one hos­pi­tal then wake up in another.

She didn’t know where she was.

All she could re­mem­ber was get­ting on the plane in Perth but this is the last thing she can re­call.

‘‘Wak­ing up in that first hos­pi­tal, I just didn’t know. They al­ways ask ‘where are you, what day is it?’ I couldn’t re­mem­ber any­thing.’’

Along with not know­ing where she was, Kruk­erink couldn’t do any­thing.

‘‘I could just blink my eyes. They said ‘blink once for yes and twice for no’’’.

By the sec­ond or third day, Kruk­erink could move her fin­gers slightly and was able to write.

For a while, this was her only mode of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Talk­ing was dif­fi­cult be­cause of the stroke.

It’s now been a num­ber of years and Kruk­erink is still re­cov­er­ing.

It’s a slow process but reach­ing mile­stones such as be­ing able to lift her walker into the car by her­self make re­cov­ery that bit eas­ier.

Get­ting her li­cence back was also a big achieve­ment as it gave her her in­de­pen­dence back. She no longer has to rely on friends and fam­ily to get her places.

Kruk­erink works with Sport Waikato ac­tive and well co-or­di­na­tor Tui Priest at Pohlen Hos­pi­tal on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

The pair work on re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion through phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity to get Kruk­erink mov­ing again.

‘‘I think when you don’t do ex­er­cise you go back­wards,’’ Kruk­erink said.

Her life is now all about im­prov­ing.

‘‘That’s the only way to do it, oth­er­wise you’re still the same.’’

Priest said Kruk­erink’s im­prove­ments over the past four years have been as­ton­ish­ing.

She has worked ex­tremely hard to get to where she is to­day.

‘‘The first day she drove up to our fa­cil­ity by her­self, she was greeted by a stand­ing ova­tion and it bought tears to my eyes. She has come so far.’’

Priest said Kruk­erink’s jour­ney has been a tough chal­lenge.

‘‘But we’re all so proud of her.’’

Photo: TERESA HAT­TAN

RE­HA­BIL­I­TA­TION: Mata­mata’s Gerda Kruk­erink, left, with the support of Sport Waikato ac­tive and well co-or­di­na­tor Tui Priest, is now back be­hind the wheel after con­tract­ing menin­gi­tis and suf­fer­ing a stroke in 2009.

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