Piercing Memories

Remembering the past to protect the future

The aim of the Piercing Memories project is to record personal accounts and experiences of diseases that are now vaccine preventable in New Zealand.

Nearly 200 stories from all around New Zealand have been recorded and are being used to demonstrate to parents and health professionals the reality of diseases that can now be prevented by immunisation.

The following stories have been edited from recorded stories for the Piercing Memories project and are posted on this website with the consent of the author.

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  • 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...
  • “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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...