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Support programme gives Julian hope of seeing family again

After more than three decades working as a boilermaker at a sugar mill in Fiji, Julian Hicks has a wry smile when he says he’s had enough electricity go through his body to power a large refrigerator.

But the toll it has taken is no laughing matter.

For almost two decades he has been living alone in Auckland, away from his wife and four children in Fiji, due to his condition.

“I got caught doing all the big jobs. There would be oxygen bottles that needed shifting, filling and be taken up and down stairs. They were really two-person jobs, but I was young and strong and not very patient – I just did it myself,” he says.

“I had a few falls, and in dangerous conditions when the sparks hit the water, I’d get some nasty shocks … I guess it took its toll.”

By his mid-40s, Julian says his body was “wrecked”. The carrying of large steel tanks meant there was nothing but bone-on-bone in his shoulders. He can’t lift his arms above his shoulders. And the damage of the shocks he received compounded his pain.

He is now diagnosed as having a growth in his pituitary gland, an important gland in the body. It is often referred to as the 'master gland', because it controls several of the other hormone glands such as adrenals and thyroid.

With the Fijian medical system unable to manage his long-term condition, Julian arrived in New Zealand. Two decades later he’s still here, away from his wife and four children still living in Fiji, who he misses dearly.

“I went back in August last year and stayed for 28 days, which was as long as I could be away for,” he says.

“It was very nice, but I miss them now.”

Julian lives by himself in a small flat in Otahuhu. He is now part of the Counties Manukau DHB At Risk Individual (ARI) programme, which The Fono is involved in with its Manurewa clinic.

A new programme in Counties Manukau, ARI is aimed at early intervention. Patients with complex needs are supported to develop an integrated care plan with their primary carers such as The Fono, allowing carers to identify patients and then better coordinate services.

ARI was able to detect that Julian needed assistance … and some company. 

Loga Crichton, The Fono’s Social Services Team Leader, visited Julian and arranged for him to be taken to meet others living close-by in similar isolated conditions.

With the support of WINZ she was able to source all his entitlements that enabled him to pay off some outstanding debts. She also took him to a local gathering of elderly Pacific people in Otahuhu and be picked up on a Sunday for church services.

“I see a lot of lonely, elderly Pacific people and the ARI programme helps in finding those who are most vulnerable,” she says.

“We do our best with our resources to look after them, including referring some to voluntary organisations like Age Concern.”

The programme also ensures Julian receives regular check-ups at The Fono South in Manurewa and is up to date with his prescriptions.

“I speak to my neighbours next door, but it’s nice when the nurses come to visit and see how I am,” he says.

At age 64 and barely mobile, Julian realises his options in regards to quality of life are limited.

“Because of what my body went through as a boilermaker, I was told I couldn’t be operated on, as I’d never wake-up.”

But he is genuinely glad to still be alive, loves his music and his favourite television shows and looks forward to seeing his family again … one day.

“My daughter stayed with me for a week and my son came to visit while he was over for a sports trip. The thought of seeing them again gives me something to look forward to.”

ARI SNAPSHOT 

ARI is a new Counties Manukau DHB programme aimed at early intervention. Patients with complex needs are supported to develop an integrated care plan with their primary carers such as The Fono, allowing carers to identify patients and then better coordinate services.

ARI is a three stage patient journey with assessment and enrolment and up to 12 months of coordinated care. Patients then transition off ARI or are re-enrolled as needed

  • Patient-centred care is provided and while enrolled patients benefit from enhanced collaboration between primary, secondary and allied health care
  • Systems allow clinicians to develop and manage a patient-centred care plan that can be accessed by other clinical specialities and NGOs
  • Patients graduate from ARI better resourced to provide self-care

Contact  The Fono South 

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