Rheumatic fever stories

In these stories, children and their parents share their experience of rheumatic fever.

The Katoa Twins and Their Rheumatic Fever Story

Justin: My name is Justin, and this is my twin brother Tristan.

Tristan: Last year, I almost died. I had open heart surgery

Justin: They said he had rheumatic fever. It happened so fast. Earlier that Sunday, we were at church –

Tristan: And I started feeling really sick. I felt sick the night before, but I thought I could sleep it off.

Justin: I thought you were just being soft, because of rugby that morning. [Laughs. Tristan hits him with a pillow] Ow!

Tristan: I thought I played really good, even though I had rheumatic fever!

Justin: If we got it checked earlier, he wouldn't have this [points at the scar over Tristan's chest].

Tristan: And it started with a sore throat

Voice over: Sore throats can lead to rheumatic fever and heart damage. If your child has a sore throat call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice

Rheumatic Fever: A Parent’s Perspective

[Riley and Hakopa playing in back garden]

Riley: My name’s Riley, and I'm eleven years old and this is my brother.

Hakopa: My name is Hakopa and I had Rheumatic Fever.

Paula: Hakopa's been a natural athlete pretty much since he was a little kid.

He's been playing rugby since he was four years old.

Riley: He's pretty much one of the fastest people I know. He plays nearly every sport.

Paula: He's the last one to get sick in our household. I remember that time that he did have a sore throat

I didn't think anything major of it, we let it ride, you know,

Pamol, rest and then bouncing back the next day he was well enough to go back to school.

We had no idea what Rhematic Fever was.

When the doctor told us that he would need heart surgery she mentioned that there was that slight possibility that he may not make it.

It didn't seem real. I sort of, I didn't...

Hakopa: My mum felt really sad when they told her that I had, had to have surgery.

Paula: You know, hearing that your son might not make it through a surgery and then you think back as a parent thinking... how did we get here? How did we get here?

How did my son who was perfectly healthy, running around the same as he would every other time, every other day...

It makes you think, only if I had, only if

I had taken him to the doctor when he had a sore throat six months ago and got some antibiotics to get rid of any sort of infection.

He'd be okay. Open heart surgery, penicillin shots til he's 30 years old...  these are all things that could have been avoided if, if we had just taken him to the doctors at the time when he got a sore throat.

Riley: We are not really allowed to kick balls around, but we still do.

If Mum sees me doing anything including sports she will not let me go outside for the rest of the year...day...no for the year...no...(laughter)

Yeah life's real different now because I'm not allowed to do any sport.

It feels dumb that I'm not allowed to play rugby.

Riley: A sore throat may not seem like anything really, but it could lead to Rhematic Fever and you could end up having a scar down your chest like my brother.

Paula: It's not cool to take the risk of... I'll see what happens tomorrow. I'll see if it's okay tomorrow... As soon as your kid gets a sore throat, then you need to go to the doctors. We all need to go to the doctors to get it checked.

Voiceover: Sore throats can lead to Rheumatic Fever and heart damage.

If you're in Porirua or Auckland there may be a free sore throat clinic near you.

Sore throat clinics provide free assessment and treatment to children and young people aged 4–19.

You can find a clinic by calling Healthline on  0800 611 116 or visiting this website.

If you're not sure what to do, call Healthline for advice.

(Music)

Rheumatic Fever: A Child’s Perspective

Talia'uli Vete: My name is Talia'uli Vete, I'm 11 years old.

[Video of Talia'uli Vete walking around on rugby field holding rugby ball]

I play for Mount Roskill District.

When I grow up I want to be a rugby player, for the All Blacks.

I'm learning how to kick like Daniel Carter.

[Video of Talia'uli Vete kicking rugby ball]

One day I went to school where, we were running. I was coming 4th, and suddenly my chest like just started uh feeling like slowing down and I felt so tired and weak. I dropped back and I started coming second to last.

I told my mum I was going to die and I nearly died in the race.

[Video of Sitela and Vakapuna, Talia'uli Vete’s parents]

Sitela: He said to me mum, I nearly die at school, I feel like I don't have any air, any more air to breathe.

[Video of Talia'uli Vete talking under goalpost]

Talia'uli Vete: The next morning my mum took me to hospital.

When the doctor told me my heart was damaged, I was laughing for a while because I thought it was not true, I thought he was joking, and then um they told me it's true.

I caught Rheumatic Fever.

[Video of Sitela and Vakapuna]

Sitela: I was just sitting there crying and looking at my son and I just said to myself, please don't tell me that my son is going to die, because I don't want to lose him.

Vakapuna: What I felt was how much I love my son.

It's quite hard to explain how we feel, when they are like telling us,

knowing that there's something wrong with his heart.

[Talia'uli Vete kicking rugby ball]

Talia'uli Vete: I take injections every month. I have to have my injections until I'm 21.

That's 10 more years. The doctor told me not to play rugby for a little while.

If I couldn't play rugby anymore I would just feel like bored.

I thought my sore throat wouldn't be that dangerous, I thought it would just go away just simply.

Voiceover: When you have a sore throat it's best to go to a doctor straight away.

Sore throats can lead to Rheumatic Fever and heart damage.

If you're in Porirua or Auckland there may be a free sore throat clinic near you. Sore throat clinics provide free assessment and treatment to children and young people aged 4-19.

You can find a clinic by calling Healthline on 0800 611 116 or visiting this website.

If you're not sure what to do, call Healthline for advice.

[Music]

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