THREE months into the Tūranga Health Eke Tū programme James 'Bull' Smith has dropped 7 kgs to 160kg and is loving life.
“My energy levels are up since I started. Things that would make me tired before I can just run around and do now. My breathing is better too.”
An altercation between his knee and a dairy farm backing gate two years ago, as well as and wear and tear from rugby, meant James thought his exercising days were over.
“When the surgeon said I needed to lose 40kgs to safely have knee surgery, I laughed. I said ‘are you for real?’ His GP referred him to Eke Tū.
James who is Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou, travels from Te Karaka to town twice a week for exercise and nutrition sessions.
James and his group take part in yoga, circuit training and swimming. They learn stress management techniques and what a healthy diet looks like. “I was an invalid doing nothing. Now the strength in my knee is improving and even though I am still limited, it is getting much better.
“Once you get that momentum going it is hard to turn back, especially if you have a goal that you want to achieve. In our team there is an excitement and enthusiasm. I love it. I’m not just doing it for myself, I’m doing it to help my Eke Tū teammates now too. I’ve not missed a session yet, I even missed a hangi one time to come into town and exercise.”
James favours the swimming sessions where he can “give 100 percent”. Being in the water takes some of the pressure off his knee. Some unexpected new passions have emerged too. “The yoga sessions are good, they teach us about mindfulness.”
He says initial shyness within the group has dissipated. “Now we’ve learned to take shyness by the horns.”
It’s a fitting metaphor for James who’s known as Bull because of his size. But with his weight loss and his new found love of exercise—tough and determined seems a more appropriate reason he’s called Bull!
Eke Tū is a wraparound Tūranga Health programme run by kaiāwhina and gym instructor Bernie Semau.
The four-month pilot programme focuses on managing and preventing chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes through exercise and healthy lifestyle education.
Bernie runs two Eke Tū groups: eight patients from Gisborne, and 14 patients from Te Karaka. Patients are referred by their GP and both groups are half way through.
“We’ve seen some good results as far as decreases in blood pressure and HBA1C levels. Things like lowering the risk of diabetes are goals,” says Bernie.
Some participants have lost nearly 10kg. “It’s humbling to see those results and cool to be a part of something so positive. The biggest thing has probably been the interactions within the groups; people from different backgrounds and experiences coming together, opening up about their conditions and supporting each other.”
Participants do circuit sessions at the beach, yoga, swimming and gym sessions at Tūranga Health. They learn about nutrition, and their overall wellbeing is monitored by a Tūranga Health nurse. “As far as participation and pilots go, it has been awesome,” says Bernie.
A LOVE of children makes being a Tamariki Ora nurse a dream job for Akesa Kavai.
Akesa has worked as a Turanga Health Tamariki Ora nurse for four months.
She studied nursing extramurally through the Universal College of Learning and has spent the past four years working at Kiri Te Kanawa Retirement Village.
Her goal has always been to work with children and babies - but not in a hospital.“I’ve always had a passion for children but I didn’t like the paediatric wards because I don’t like seeing unhealthy or sickly children.”
Being a Tamariki Ora nurse involves everything Akesa loves about health and preventative care.“Working with kids, you’re not just focusing on them, you look at the entire family as a whole. Often you can’t just fix one issue because it relates to everyone not just the children.”
Akesa loves meeting babies and in a few months will meet her own! Already mum to Carmel, 7, and Timote, 23 months, her third child is due in March.
Akesa is of Tongan descent and was born in Auckland. Her family moved to Gisborne before her first birthday and went to Te Hapara Primary School, Gisborne Intermediate and Gisborne Girls’ High School.
Away from work, Akesa and her family love spending time at the park and are heavily involved with Wesleyan Methodist Church.
Turanga Health welcomes Akesa Kavai.
A TRAGIC family accident more than a decade ago led Swinitha Brown to work in health.
Swinitha (Rongowhakaata, Te Āitanga-a-Māhaki, Te Aitanga a Hauiti, Ngāti Maru) has been a Turanga Health community nurse for three months but her nursing journey began in 2001.
She’d finished her second year of law school when her father was in a car accident. "My dad ended up paralysed due to a medical misadventure and was sent to Burwood Spinal Unit in Christchurch. They were absolutely brilliant and it inspired me."
Swinitha decided she wanted to provide the same level of care her dad received at Burwood for others, and prevent more families from receiving inadequate care."I’d always been brought up to treat others how you would like to be treated, so I decided I wanted to give back."
She’s been a registered nurse for nearly nine years and worked at Chelsea and Gisborne Hospital.
Growing up in Gisborne, Swinitha attended Awapuni Primary School and Gisborne Intermediate. She attended high school in Otago and later at Te Aute College.
Being part Māori (her mother is a descendant of the Scottish Colquhoun clan) Swinitha was drawn to Turanga Health. "I wanted to be out there more with people in their homes."
Swinitha had heard good things about Turanga Health before applying for the job and as she’d always wanted to work for a Māori organisation, the move made sense. "Everyone gets on with one another and there’s no tension or stress. It is just amazing and I absolutely love it.”
Job flexibility and no night shift is important to Swinitha as she is mum to six-year-old Kruz. As the ninth of 10 children in her family, having an only child broke the mould. "But he makes up for at least seven kids, seriously. He’s really adventurous so we do heaps of fun stuff together." Among their hobbies are surfing at Okitu Beach, playing guitar, and singing together. Swinitha also enjoys spending time with partner Neil.
Recently Swinitha finished a small business management course at Te Wananga o Aōtearoa. "I really wanted to to do it for the management papers because I’m interested in nursing practitioner study."
Turanga Health welcomes Swinitha Brown.
LESLIE Puketapu is currently working in administration but is looking forward to her new role as a kaiāwhina from early next year.
Leslie (Te Aitanga Mahaki and Ngati Porou) has been covering Toni June’s maternity leave for the past three months and will continue until January.
Her eye had been on a job at Turanga Health for a while after seeing how the organisation worked with the community while she was population health administrator at Hauora Tairāwhiti.
"I didn’t know a lot about Turanga Health apart from its community work particularly within my own community. I thought 'I need to work for them and help my whānau'. I now have a real appreciation of how much work Turanga Health does and everyday I think, ‘I’m in the right place’.”
During her eight years at Hauora Tairāwhiti Leslie went to many events displaying health promotional resources. She hopes to build on this level of community engagement. "I want to bring about more awareness to whānau about various health services. I’m a people person. I love people and engaging with those that need more guidance and support.
Leslie attended Riverdale Primary, Gisborne Intermediate and Lytton High School. She’s mum to 15-year-old Katerina and is a supportive Gisborne Girls’ High School parent.
As well as family life and travel, Leslie loves sport. “I literally used to play everything but now I am more involved in netball management." Leslie has been a player and a coach at Whatatutu Netball Club and is now the secretary.
Turanga Health welcomes Leslie Puketapu.
DELICIOUS and nutritious was the aim of the game at the annual Turanga Health versus Three Rivers Medical Cook Off last week.
The two teams worked a long lunch time in shifts creating healthy dishes like beef kebabs and sliders while the public used their taste buds to vote.
Three Rivers might have had the home advantage with the event right outside its practice doors but Turanga Health came out on top.
The biggest success was educating the public with a range of easy, healthy and tasty dishes - and taking a fun break from work, says Three Rivers nurse Suze Platten. "It was great to be a part of a team that’s all about education, and to be out working together like we always do."
The event is also a bonding experience between the two primary health care providers says Turanga Health Manager Dwayne Tamatea. "The relationship with Three Rivers is already strong but like every relationship a bit of bonding is what today was about. That, and giving patients a look at what happens outside general practice."
For those lucky enough to attend the event and sample some of the dishes, casting a vote either way was no easy task. Watene Waikari went with Three Rivers, saying their sliders were simply "awesome". Jim Kahukoti attended the cook off with daughter Azaria. "It was a pretty even mix of food, it was all good."
Azaria, 2, tried almost every dish but was more excited with her brand new Turanga Health bucket hat!
BY day he’s a Turanga Health physical activity kaiāwhina but when Hotorene Brown steps into the ring this month the crowd will know him as Bad News Brown! Hotorene is taking part in the Fight for Life Education Trust 2016 annual charity boxing event that funds the Trust’s mobile classroom. Kayla Dalrymple, a previous challenger, finds out what drives Hotorene and how he thinks he’ll go.
Family man Hotorene Brown has three boys with his partner Manu: Te Kehu 14, Nathaneal 12, and Jahn 10. He says the Life Education Trust is a cause close to his heart. The classroom services the length of the East Coast focusing on wellness, nutrition and healthy living, as well as teaching anti-bullying, anti-drugs and anti-alcohol messages.
In some ways the Trust’s work shares similar values to Turanga Health and Hotorene says “it’s about the kids first and foremost, and then the journey of learning to box.”
The journey is something all boxers who have been involved with the event experience differently. Taking part means an intensive three month training schedule, late nights learning complicated techniques, hours sparring in the ring, and often missing dinner with the family and putting the kids to bed.
“It has been physically quite draining. You finish anywhere from 9 to 9.30pm and then you go home and have dinner by yourself with the adrenaline still racing through you, so you don’t sleep until 11pm or 12pm.”
Hotorene says the boxers connect strongly with their team mates. “Most of us have families or partners and there are some experiences you just can’t talk about with them because you just can’t explain it. But you bond with your team because you are all on the journey together, going through the ups and downs and meltdowns, the whole thing.”
Hoterene is part of the red team with Gisborne City Hit Pit. He will face off in the ring against Bevan Vendt from the Patu Tahi Boxing Club blue team. He’s not thinking too much about the bout. “I have not really over anaylsed the fight too much. As soon as you over analyse you get nervous and if you are nervous, you are no good to anyone.”
Hotorene says the experience so far has turned him from a couch critic into someone with a high respect for the sport. “My perception of boxing has changed. It is a fine art with lots of detail. It is really cool when you start to understand the basic stuff. Learning is hard because you have to remember 20 to 30 different things all at once, processing everything from the position of your feet to your shoulders - I forget to breathe sometimes. It’s not just brutality, there is a science and finesse to it as well.”
Fight for Life Ed 2016 is Friday 25 November at Gisborne Showgrounds. Tickets are available from Express PR.
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