Horror months carry message
In May last year Sarah Rangi took her son to the emergency department suffering joint spasms.
Fifteen minutes later he tested positive for rheumatic fever and began a three-month stay at Hawke’s Bay Hospital.
Rangi and her son Tai Aiolupotea, 9, are members of three Hawke’s Bay families set to appear in an educational video about the dangers posed by rheumatic fever.
Before his diagnosis Rangi described Tai as the child she was always running around after, a super active kid who was involved in whatever sport he could get his hands on.
‘‘I had heard the name rheumatic fever but I didn’t know what it was. But now I would describe it as a silent killer.’’
About two weeks before his hospital admission Tai complained of a sore throat. Rangi gave him some cough syrup and the discomfort went away.
But the streptococcal bacteria which causes rheumatic fever had moved from his throat to his heart, causing serious damage.
A couple of weeks later she noticed Tai’s body was jerking uncontrollably.
Their doctor suspected it was a symptom of the flu, but Rangi went to the emergency department for a second opinion.
After months of card games, naps and medical care the inflammation around his heart had reduced enough for Tai to return home.
‘‘He had the biggest smile on his face,’’ his mum said. ’’It was like Christmas for him.’’
Rangi has become an advocate among family and friends for throat swabbing to catch streptococcal infections early.
For her son rheumatic fever means damage to his heart, on-going tests, checks and monthly penicillin injections.
The first public screening of the video, produced by Te Taiwhenua O Heretaunga, will be at its Orchard Rd centre on June 12, at 4pm.
It is part of the Say Ahh! campaign, a rheumatic fever prevention programme run by the organisation and Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, which swabs throats of children in nine schools.
Sarah Rangi with her son Tai Aiolupotea, 9.