Julia knows the importance of keeping healthy

6 May 2016


Ngati Porou Hauora Rural Health Nurse Gina Chaffey-Aupouri administers the free

Ngati Porou Hauora Rural Health Nurse Gina Chaffey-Aupouri administers the free Influenza immunisation to hapu mama Julia Keelan.

After living with the effects of an illness that could be prevented, Ruatoria mum-to-be Julia Keelan knows the importance of doing all she can to keep herself and her whānau healthy. This week she received her free flu vaccination and has booked in to have her free whooping cough vaccination when she is 28 weeks pregnant.

Eight years ago Julia felt like she had the flu or a growth spurt that never ended. Her bones ached and she always had a sore throat.

“I was 15 and at Gisborne Girls High School when the results of a throat swab came back and I was rushed to hospital. It was pretty scary stuff. There was a suspicion I had rheumatic fever – the “sore throats hurt hearts’ disease. In my case it took a while to diagnose but I was on antibiotics from the start. Rheumatic Fever was confirmed and I ended up spending three months in Planet Sunshine at Gisborne Hospital.   When I was in Planet Sunshine there were two other young people in hospital with rheumatic fever. They were 11 and 12 years old.”

“Ever since then I have had to have an injection every month. Not just any injection, this one stings. I have to have them for ten years so only two more years to go. It is worth it though. I am one of the lucky ones. I only have minor heart damage.  I was able to go back to playing sport and when I left school I was able to do physical work in forestry“.

“I guess spending so much time around hospitals and health care has made me really aware of the importance of good health. I live in Ruatoria at home with mum and six of my seven siblings. We have always had our vaccinations on time. My nan, Tui Takarangi has worked in health and she made sure we knew how important vaccinations are to keeping us all healthy.”

“With lots of people in the house, if one of us gets sick we can all go down.”

“That is why I went in to get my flu vaccination this week. I am now four months pregnant with my first child. Flu vaccinations are free when you are pregnant. With my history of rheumatic fever and a baby on the way I do not need to catch this serious illness. I know that protecting baby starts in pregnancy and so I will get my whooping cough vaccination when I am 28 weeks and make sure all my family is up to date with their whooping cough vaccinations. It can be very catching.”

It’s Immunisation Week and an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of immunisation particularly for pregnant mums. It is important that mothers-to-be understand that protecting baby begins at pregnancy, says Medical Officer of Health Dr Margot McLean.

“Whooping cough can cause babies to become seriously ill, and can sometimes be deadly.  Immunisation against whooping cough during pregnancy protects nine out of ten babies in their first few weeks of life, until they are fully immunised.” 

“Pregnant mothers are also advised to get the seasonal flu immunisation. Getting the flu while pregnant can be serious for the mother – and baby. In fact, pregnant women are five times more likely to be admitted to hospital when suffering from influenza-related complications than women who are not pregnant.’ 

Both immunisations are recommended, free and have a proven safety record.

For more information on Immunisation, go to: www.immune.org.nz, www.health.govt.nz/immunisation or phone 0800 IMMUNE

For more information specifically about immunisation during pregnancy: http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/immunisation/immunisation-pregnant-women