Health Matters EBOP April 2017

Broken Heart Joseph Ngametuangaro’s story Joseph Ngametuangaro will never forget his first plane trip. At fourteen the Opotiki teen was airlifted to Starship Hospital for major heart surgery. The top draw of her filing cabinet is full of files with patients who have RF. Research shows it’s a disease that almost exclusively affects Māori and Pacific peoples. “It started with a sore throat at school. I was losing weight. I was tired and sweaty and out of breath all the time. I went to the doctor and was soon admitted to hospital.” “No one likes injections, and Benzathine Penicillin is like a thick paste. It’s like injecting toothpaste. It takes a few minutes to draw down the syringe. We try to provide whatever support the patient needs to make it more bearable,” says Sandra. Joseph recalls it was springtime 2011. The country was alive with Rugby World Cup fever, while he was finding out Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) had damaged his heart beyond repair. Sticking to the monthly injection schedule, helps to reduce the risk of strep throats causing more damage to the hearts of those patients. “It was a lot to get my head around. I’d never been in hospital before. Tests showed three of my heart valves needed to be replaced.” “It’s tough, it’s painful. When the patient’s well and feeling good they think they don’t need to come in for their monthly jab,” says Sandra. The operation took most of the day. Surgeons had to stop and restart his heart. He spent months in Starship Hospital and months of recovery beyond that. Joseph’s life had changed forever. In Joseph’s case, antibiotics weren’t enough to prevent further heart damage. Late last year he was back in hospital having heart valves replaced again, this time with mechanical valves. “I spent a lot of time in a wheelchair too weak to walk. And then the first of a lifetime of injections started.” Every month Joseph who’s now twenty, goes to the Opotiki Health Centre for a Benzathine Penicillin injection to reduce the risk of strep infections doing further damage to his heart. Joseph is one of many patients with Rheumatic Fever (RF) that BOPDHB District Health Nurse Sandra Innes-Smith (Ball) needs to chase up for their monthly jab. At twenty, Joseph takes a raft of pills daily to stay well including Warfarin the blood thinning agent which supports the blood flow through those artificial values to his heart. He’s getting his life back on track, focused on getting into a teacher aide training course. “I’m limited in what I can do. There are labouring jobs around Opotiki but I can’t manage that anymore.” With a high prevalence of ARF in the Eastern Falls can happen to anyone, but, unfortunately, as you grow older falls can become more common and you are more likely to injure yourself. Most elderly people fall in and around the home but the good news is that there are a number of things you can do to help prevent falls and minimise your injuries if you do fall. April Falls is a month-long campaign focussing on falls; the leading cause of injury and incapacitation to the elderly. Falls cause serious harm, with the most common injury being a hip fracture. Of those who suffer a hip fracture nearly 20% will die within a year; almost half will require long-term care, and half will require help with daily living. What causes falls in the elderly? As you grow older, changes in your body such as vision problems, weakening muscles and stiffening joints can increase your chances of falling. Falls can also be a sign of a new health problem, medication side effects or balance problems. Even short-term illnesses (such as the flu and other infections) or surgery can temporarily increase the risk of falling. If you’ve had a fall in the past six months, your chances of falling may be increased. Bay, school-based throat swabbing programmes are provided in Opotiki, Kawerau, Murupara, and Tuhoe. BOPDHB District Nurse Sandra Innes-Smith (Ball) prepares Joseph for his monthly injection. Joseph says “Some kids don’t like having a stick poked into their mouth to check for strep throat. But that’s nothing compared to monthly injections. Get it checked, before the damage is done.” To find out where to get your child’s throat checked contact Sandra on (027) 363 4126. Or call Healthline on 0800 611 116. Who can help? If you’ve had a fall, or you often feel like you’re at risk of falling, don’t just dismiss it as part of getting older, lack of concentration or clumsiness. Talk to a health professional (such as a doctor, nurse, physiotherapist, podiatrist, occupational therapist or optometrist) and ask about different options that may help you. What can I do to reduce my risk of falling? Things you can do to reduce your risk of falling include: • making sure clothing is not too long causing a trip hazard (touching the floor) • hazard proofing your home to make it as safe as possible – removing slip or trip hazards like loose rugs or mats and repairing or replacing worn areas of carpets • wiping up spills immediately • making sure there is adequate lighting, especially at night • using your walking aid at all times • installing grab rails in the bathroom • eating healthy and nutritious food • keeping pathways in good repair and clean • drinking enough fluids • marking the edge of steps so they are easy to see. • maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, with regular exercise to prevent your muscles weakening and joints stiffening such as tai chi • taking medication only as prescribed • wearing the right shoes – comfortable, firm- fitting, flat shoes with a low wide heel, laces, buckles or Velcro fastenings and rubber soles that grip Home maintenance and modification may also help prevent falls by making your home safer and more secure. This may include installing: • grab an ͡ݕȁɅ+Ʌ+ݕɥͱ́ݡЁݕɅ́ѡȁ䁅+Ё݅ͽ̃ɝ䁅ɵ́ѡȁͅ䁅̸