Dicing with death a fact of life
Every morning Jacqualine Brown, 37, wakes up wondering if she will make it through the day.
The Matakana resident suffers from hereditary angioedema (HAE), a rare genetic condition that causes her to pass out and stop breathing.
Brown has been rushed to Auckland’s North Shore Hospital three times in the past six months and says she would not be alive had it not been for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.
They came to her aid just three weeks ago, and last year, she was airlifted twice in three weeks when she suffered pain in her ears, back, and suffered internal swelling and stopped breathing.
‘‘Without the Westpac Rescue Helicopter you would have to interview a corpse because they literally have saved my life,’’ she says.
‘‘My last episode was the worst – I was rushed to hospital in the helicopter and it took them a while to get me back.’’
Brown needs regular blood transfusions to prevent the attacks. When they occur, it can take her three weeks to recover.
‘‘I was born with HAE in Durban and had my first episode when I was three months old,’’ Brown said. ‘‘I wasn’t diagnosed until 2011.
‘‘I moved to New Zealand in 2014, and after my second attack I was told by the doctor I was depressed – they didn’t know or understand my disease.’’
Brown believes she is the only person in New Zealand with type three HAE, but said a lack of education about the condition means there could be many undiagnosed cases.
‘‘I have had to do all my tests again since immigrating which has not been too good for me. They have only just given me the medication that I need, but I pretty much have had to be at death’s door for them to say okay.’’
Despite the disease Brown gets on with her life as normal with her two children and runs her business, Morris & James Cafe.
‘‘I live a normal life – I am not a sickly person or anything, but I do hit rock bottom.
‘‘It’s scary for my kids and the people around me who have to inject me with adrenaline. My kids learnt to inject me from the age of seven.’’
In the past Brown has gone five years without an episode and said that if she maintains a good treatment plan and stays healthy, she will lead a long life.
‘‘The community needs the rescue staff, they give up so much. They are the heroes behind people and they are the lifeline.’’
Brown appealed to New Zealanders to get behind the needs to support the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.
‘‘The biggest drive is the support for the ambulances and Westpac. I don’t think anyone really understands how much people need these services.’’ Brown’s mission will feature on Code:1 TVNZ1 tomorrow at 8pm.
Jacqualine Brown manages her family life and runs a cafe despite needing regular blood transfusions and, sometimes, an airlift to hospital to save her life.