Grandma’s rich tale helps moko understand medical device

Latest News  24 September 2020 | Rerehua is a baby turtle.  He has several sea-dwelling friends, including Mango the shark and Tohoraa the whale. Rerehua is a happy turtle but he has a health problem and needs to wear a special mask to help him breathe overnight.  He is encouraged by his friends Mango and Tohoraa to wear his mask.

Such is the world grandmother Yvonne Stirling has created for her five-year -old moko, Kauri.

Kauri has collapsed airways and needs to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to help him breathe overnight. 

“He could be fine one minute and the next minute he is going blue,” explains Yvonne.

Initially resistant, Kauri is now wearing the CPAC for up to four hours a night – thanks to his shell-covered counterpart and the power of his Nana’s story telling.  And, as was the case for Rerehua, Kauri is able to report the mask works, telling his Nan; “I wake up full of energy!”

In fact, Yvonne says that this year has been the first of many that Kauri has not needed an emergency visit to hospital.

Yvonne, who has had custody of Kauri since he was eight months old, says there are not a lot of tools available to help children relate to and understand their various treatments so she set about making one.

“I believed I could make a difference for him.  I get him to engage in the story.  Each animal in the story represents somebody in Kauri’s life,” she says.

Yvonne credits her story telling ability with her upbringing on the East Coast, which is rich in oral tradition.  She carefully considered how she could help him and came up with a rich sea world.

“If you know your children well then you can understand them well. The end result is that they are happy to [follow the doctor’s advice], but you have to make sure you engage.”

One of Kauri’s doctors, Consultant Paediatrician, Kidz First Dr Rebecca Hayman says having a story like Rerehua the turtle is a great way to help children adapt to various medical interventions.

Dr Hayman, whose ocean counterpart in the story is a wise Snapper or Kakapa, says the change in Kauri’s approach to the device is  positive and demonstrates the power of looking at things from a child’s perspective.  She is hopeful that Kauri will be able to get better sleep and that this will help him engage better at school.  She also hopes Yvonne can make it available to more children.

Yvonne is open to this idea and would love to help other young people with conditions similar to Kauri.

For now though, she has to find a way to help Kauri accept the glasses he’s been prescribed.

“Perhaps Rerehua needs to start wearing goggles,” she laughs.


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