Stories

The 11th of November 2008 commemorated the 90th anniversary of the global influenza pandemic or ‘Spanish Flu’ which coincided with the end of the first world war. "Between October and December 1918 New Zealand lost almost half as many people to influenza as it had in the whole of the First World...
Donnea, aged six, ate her usual good breakfast and went to school. By early afternoon she was on her way to Starship Hospital very ill with Meningococcal meningitis type B. Her mother describes the careful observations and speedy response of the school staff, that may have well saved Donnea's life...
Gemini was only a month old when she became ill with meningococcal meningitis shortly after attending a tangi with her parents. Her mother and father describe the difficulty they had in persuading their doctor that Gemini was seriously ill, and speak strongly against allowing people to kiss small...
Ida, who died at the age of 102, was a young woman working at Smith and Caughey’s in Auckland when she was struck with influenza. “I was living at the YWCA hostel in Scotia Place and my sister and I shared a room. She didn’t even have a sore throat. Now it was a fairly big office and one or two...
Pauline describes being diagnosed with tuberculosis as a young student nurse in the 1940s and the two years she spent in a sanatorium. “I began my nursing training in October 1946. I passed my medical and my chest X-ray was clear. After our preliminary study I was posted to an old men's ward for...
Jeanette’s much loved only sister Sheryl died of polio at the age of five in 1952. Fifty years later Jeanette describes the profound and continuing effects Sheryl’s death have had on the family and strongly advocates immunisation. I was eight when she died. We were living on a farm, ten miles out...
Winifred recalls having tetanus at the age of 6 and reads a letter written by her mother to her grandmother describing the little girl’s illness. “ I was living in Pukehou, Hawkes Bay. It wasn’t a farm now actually but it had been a farm and so there were lots of horses in the area. It was Queen’s...
Joy recalls having diphtheria as a small girl in the 1920s. "In 1928 there was quite an epidemic I understand. I was seven at that time. My husband and his younger brother also had diphtheria at the same time. He was in hospital, but of course I wasn’t acquainted with his family then. I used to...
“In 1946 there was an extensive outbreak of diphtheria in New Zealand. We had about 1000 cases admitted to the Auckland Hospital. Most but not all were children. They arrived by car, or ambulance with obstructed breathing, blue in the face and gasping for breath. Some were already dead. Others had...
Anna had chicken pox when she was 18 weeks pregnant. Two weeks later her three year old daughter Lily also came out in spots. “ I think a couple of days before I actually came out in the spots I felt like I was getting a very bad dose of the flu, sore eyes and just feeling very tired, but a lot of...
Jane (not her real name), was exposed to rubella as an eighteen year old student nurse who did not know she was pregnant. Her daughter, Beth was born profoundly damaged by congenital rubella and was not expected to live. She is now 34 years old. Jane describes how rubella has devastated Beth’s life...
Lyn describes what happened after her son, John (not his real name), had mumps. “He was 9 and he contracted them a few days before his 9th birthday. He had a very miserable 9th birthday because he couldn’t open his mouth and he couldn’t eat anything. On about the third day of us noticing that he...
Foufou Susana recounts her mother’s story of losing six children in measles and other epidemics in Niue. She describes her own illness with measles as an infant and the effects on her life subsequently. My name is Foufou Susana . my mother’s name was Foumana Magaoa and my father Magaoa Rangature I...
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) meningitis; one mother’s experience. "Saturday morning - 13 month old Mark seemed to be cold and shivery when I got him up. He consumed the warm milk from his bottle with his usual enthusiasm, but then turned very pale and vomited what seemed like all the milk....
Jennifer describes having Hepatitis B as a young woman, years of ill health and finally a liver transplant in her forties. “When I got hepatitis originally, it was in 1967. I was in my first year of teaching and I can remember for about a week feeling off colour and then I developed yellow eyes and...
In this recording, Anna’s mother Wendy describes the experience of having a very small baby ill with whooping cough. Her story consists of excerpts from an interview held at her home in June 2002 when baby Anna was a very noisy and busy 13 month old. “At about 6 weeks of age Anna started with a...