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Supporting whānau through trauma – Te Rina’s story

Partners in Care
17 April 2019

A powerful and moving speech from Te Rina Ruru was the focus of a grand round at Bay of Plenty District Health Board last week.

Te Rina, a member of the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s consumer network, presented to approximately 50 staff at the grand round at Tauranga Hospital.

She spoke about the ripple effect caused when a whānau member is unwell or injured, like her brother Ray who was left with a traumatic brain injury following a car accident over ten years ago.

Ray spent three months in hospital and five months in rehabilitation before his whānau made the tough decision to care for him at home, following concerns about his safety and care.

‘We wanted him to be safe but caring for him at home had its own challenges,’ Te Rina says.

The whānau had to focus on Ray’s care and recovery and, as a result, their lives were turned upside down. They struggled under the pressure; Te Rina began to self-harm and her mother had suicidal thoughts. Ray’s daughter, although young at the time of the accident, struggled in later years and also self-harmed.

‘People don’t talk about the ripple effect that breaks the members of your family one by one,’ Te Rina says.

The whānau weren’t offered support or counselling to learn how to heal themselves or help each other. They were never able to process their feelings because they were constantly faced with so many challenges.

‘We have had to fight ACC, home-based care providers, occupational therapists, physios, speech language therapists, general practitioners, specialists, hospitals for ongoing treatment and support workers. The list goes on… but all we ever wanted was quality of life for Ray.’

Te Rina challenges health care professionals to think about patients in their care right now, and think about what they can do better, to make sure they don’t go through what her whānau has.

‘How can you alleviate some of the whānau’s burdens so, instead of fighting the system, they can focus on each other? How can we all work together to make a difference?’

The session was recorded and is available to view below. It is republished with permission from Bay of Plenty District Health Board.