Dic­ing with death a fact of life

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - RENEE CLAY­TON

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.

MATTHEW CATTIN / FAIR­FAX NZ

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.

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