A wee boy with a cheeky smile is a ray of hope for a Gisborne woman with heart disease whose father and brother died from similar conditions.
Maryann Koia, 31, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou, was diagnosed with heart disease in 2014 and now has an internal cardiac defibrillator.
With nephew Lorenzo as inspiration and a little bit of help from Tūranga Health, Maryann has chosen life!
THE years after losing the two most important men in her life: father Jack Koia in January 2013, and brother Tim-Kaui Koia in April 2013 were tough for Maryann Koia. Jack died from heart failure and Tim-Kaui died from the complications of rheumatic heart disease. In late 2014 Maryann received the same diagnosis as her father. She’s received care from the cardiology team at Hauora Tairāwhiti and tonnes of whānau support ever since.
But more was to come.
In an awful spate of circumstances Maryann’s younger sister Oasis lost her young partner Thomas Tipene to trauma and illness the same year. Oasis gave birth to their son Lorenzo just two weeks after Thomas passed away.
“There has been a lot of trauma and sadness in our lives,” says Maryann who lives with her mum, sister, and toddler Lorenzo in Mangapapa. “But during all the time we’ve had Lorenzo. He’s been the biggest part of my life and I get up every day just to be around him.”
Lorenzo seems unaware of the central role he plays in the family. Buzzing up and down in the kitchen on his three-wheeler and due for his afternoon nap, he is all smiles and chatter. During lunch time everyone takes turns helping him out with his kai and he clearly adores them all. Without him, they all say their world would be infinitely darker.
“He brings so much life and health into the house,” says Kathy. “The healing is continuing for us all. It will take a while, it’s been a long process, but we are back on track.”
Also helping Maryann get back on track throughout the challenges has been Tūranga Health, in particular whanau ora kaimahi (community support worker) Maria Samoa.
Maria has helped Maryann wrestle to stay well following her pacemaker surgery. Maryann joined Turanga Health’s fitness classes, learned more about healthy eating , and got help managing her medication. Maria has nudged Maryann along to important health and social service appointments and coaxed her into situations where she can meet more people. She’s always on-hand for Maryann to talk to when the going gets tough. Cutting down from 20 cigarettes a day to 10 with help from Tūranga Health’s smoking cessation programme has been the latest success.
“There have been some dark times for Maryann for sure,” says Maria. “I try and motivate her and get the most out of life. In the past, yes, it’s been a challenge just getting out of bed, but now she is a model client”.
Earlier this year Maryann, her mum Kathy, and Maria, formed a team for the Sport Gisborne Tairāwhiti Do It 4 U Triathlon. Kathy is an avid cyclist, and Maria has done the triathlon before, but for Maryann the event was unique.
“It’s normal in our house for mum to exercise, so I am sure it wasn’t my idea, but we did it!” says Maryann. They called their team Lorenzo’s Angels. “I enjoyed the experience, even if my pants were falling down as I ran towards the pool! The best bit was running to the finish line with Kathy and Maria.”
When asked what she wants out of life Maryann is adamant heart disease won’t define her. She’s sticking around. She would love to be able to do a small amount of paid work and have a family herself one day. And she wants to be at Lorenzo’s 21st birthday.
“Lorenzo has bought joy to our lives and I want to watch him grow. I love all little people but he’s special, he’s got my heart, he’s the nephew and moko that I want to live a long life for. I love him.”
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