“A nurse at Korowai Aroha whipped me onto these programmes because I’d otherwise be sitting at home doing nothing,” he said. “But it’s comforting when you can see there’s others in the same boat – some maybe worse than me, and some are about the same. It’s just good to have that supportive outlook.
“I don’t use my inhaler too much anymore. I have a preventor which I use every morning and that’ll see me through the day unless I’m going hard out. I now walk almost daily, a maximum of seven kilometres, which takes me about an hour, to an hour-and-a-half.”
Wiremu had always thought about entering the Rotorua Ekiden relay, so jumped at the opportunity to be part of the Whaimua team which took part this year.
“It’s the first time I’ve done something like this. My leg was from Ngongotaha Domain to Hamurana, which was 7.8km, and I surprised myself by beating my own record. When I was studying at Waiariki 20 years ago, I was told the story of one of our kaumātua, Arapeta Tahana, who walked from Hamurana to Mourea every day at 3am, rain or shine. That was a guiding light for me, because as I was walking along the sun came out. And that’s who I thought about.”
While Wiremu was “really chuffed” to walk his fastest time ever, he says he’s now taking it in his stride as health issues continue to trouble him.
“The walk sometimes takes me a little bit longer, not only because of my COPD, but I also have a back problem, which frustrates me a lot. But I wasn’t doing any exercise before I joined the programme, and I’m relearning things I was taught way back. They’re reminders of what I can do, rather than what I can’t do. That’s how I see it.”
Wiremu says he appreciates being on the Whaimua programme, which has included a group paddle on the waka. He said it was good to get out on the lake and reflect.
“A big trigger for me is car fumes. If I inadvertently breathe in a bad exhaust, I get really breathless. I’m in a unit, and this guy had a car with bad exhaust, which had been running for about a quarter of an hour. I had a pump, but I wasn’t thinking about it at the time. I couldn’t even stand up.
“But now I have my asthma pretty much under control. I know what my triggers are, so I try to avoid those things.”