Hor­ror months carry message

The Napier Mail - - FRONT PAGE - ME­GAN HUNT

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.

ME­GAN HUNT

Sarah Rangi with her son Tai Ai­olupotea, 9.

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