Te Mana Hauora O Te Tairawhiti
20 June 2018
Rheumatic Fever Champion
'Papa' John Pomana is a role model to many and has changed the lives of men all around Tairāwhiti, his work with men’s health at Turanga health has made a real difference in our community.
What most people don’t know about ‘Papa John’ is his history with Rheumatic Fever. John was diagnosed when he was 8 years old. John remembers “There were four of us boys in the bath together and when it was time to get out I couldn’t because my knees were so sore and Aunty had to lift me out of the bath and took me to Hospital.”
Until that moment John had lived a normal life, running around Manutuke grabbing pies from Archie Miller’s van. He then spent the next 11 months in hospital, recovering from Rheumatic Fever.
Rheumatic Fever often starts with a sore throat, and is caused by a reaction to a bacterial infection with group A streptococcus (GAS) and the illness targets the heart, joints, brain and skin. Up to 40% of sore throats are caused by this bacteria and if untreated, can lead to acute Rheumatic Fever.
John’s Mum and Dad were shearers and hard workers and he often stayed with his Aunty and Uncle on Stout Street. John says “there were probably 12 children and 2 adults in a 3 bedroom home, although it was a warm house, it was a state house and there were 3 of us top and tailing in a single bed, so we were always close to each other, making it easier to get sick.”
When asked what advice he would give to other whānau in our community, John said “Always get your children’s sore throat swabbed and take Antibiotics until they are finished. Warm, dry homes are a must and children need to wear warm clothes.
Does your tamaiti have a sore throat? Get it swabbed.
If your child has a sore throat, you can take them to your local clinic for a free check and a nurse will see them on the same day. It’s quick and easy. Sore throat bugs (GAS) mainly spread through the air when coughing and sneezing. So create as much space as possible between the heads of sleeping children.
Rheumatic Fever is still present in our communities. Māori and Pacific children and young adults aged 4 to 19 years are more likely to get rheumatic fever – especially if they have other whānau members who have had it.
Warmer, drier homes
What happens if my Child gets Rheumatic Fever?