Rheumatic Fever: Awen Guttenbeil’s Story

It was the morning of the school athletics
that I woke up and my body felt like it had seized up. I couldn’t move my
joints and I was in a whole lot of pain. I remember dragging myself out of bed
and pulling myself up the hallway trying to stand myself up against the
wall and leaning against it to stay upright. I called out to Mum to come
and help me and she thought I was just putting it on, trying to get out of
athletics. They took me up to Whangarei hospital and
they diagnosed me with Rheumatic Fever. Pretty scary when you knew that it was something to do with your heart. I grew up in Whangarei. I was always active, a really healthy kid. We were
out there on our bikes or playing rugby league in the backyard kicking
goals, you name it we did it. We’d be out running around, playing in the dark, trying to convince mum that we could see, and we couldn’t. Avoiding her calls for us to get inside
for dinner. The biggest worry that I had in my childhood days was missing out on playing rugby league. It was, it was just a part of who I was. The doctors, the specialist said I’m so sorry but I’ve got bad news for you. Your son will never ever play contact sports again. I was put on a course of penicillin
injections for 10 years. Monthly injections. It took me about 2 years before I got back to doing the things that I was before I became sick. If I hadn’t have been that kid that was too scared of missing out on sport and
told Mum and Dad when I had a sore throat, I may have avoided the whole
thing all together. The silly thing was I thought I would miss out on sport for a weekend but I ended up missing out on it for years. We never ever thought he would play sports, I mean you know we
didn’t know what options he had with his life. It’s a miracle – look at what he’s achieved
since getting over his sickness and where he ended up you know, so he proved the doctors wrong. I played for New Zealand, I represented Tonga. I played for 11 years with the Vodafone Warriors Don’t fall (laughter) My daughter is almost 9 now and I look at
her and I think back to when I got sick, as I was 9 years old. It would
crush me if she was to go through what I went through or even worse.
Come back here defence, back here with me. The thing I love about junior rugby league
is you see these kids and they have hopes and passion and they are the future,
and they could be Warriors’ one day. We need to give them every opportunity
to fulfil their potential. If you know your child is not well and has
a sore throat, you’ve got to get it checked. Sore throats can lead to Rheumatic Fever and heart damage. If you’re in Porirua or Auckland
there may be a free sore throat clinic near you. Sore throat clinics provide
free assessment and treatment to children and young people aged 4-19. You can find a clinic by calling Healthline on 0800 611 116 or visiting this website. If you’re not sure what to do, call Healthline for advice. (Music)

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