While the 84-year-old was active and has walked her dog in The Redwoods every day for several years, she was becoming increasingly short of breath, and then found herself with a cough she couldn’t shake. She was puzzled by her respiratory difficulties because she hadn’t been ill, however after asking around, she put her ailments down to old age.
“But then it got so bad I had to come into Korowai Aroha. Noelene tried me on different puffers, and I’ve improved so much. I’d been coughing for about three or four months – it was awful.”
Kathleen was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and Noelene suggested she enrol on the Whaimua programme.
“I got so much from it – I feel stronger, and I’m going to keep the exercises up. When I first got to that gym, I thought, ‘I can’t even move these damn machines.’ But in the end, I could, as well as ride the bike.
“The programme’s made people get out and do things. You’ve got to really push yourself. You can’t just sit down and say, ‘my breathing’s bad, so I better not move – I better just sit here in this chair.’ You have to make yourself get out and do exercise.
“I’m so glad I did it because I thought I was dying. I wasn’t even making plans for last Christmas. I thought I’d be dead by then.”
While Kathleen has a Māori husband, she admits she was apprehensive when she initially registered at Korowai Aroha.
“When I first came to Korowai Aroha, I didn’t think they’d welcome me because I wasn’t Māori. But I can’t tell you how lovely it is to come to this place for my treatment. I found my previous doctor was just waiting to get your money but here I feel really relaxed. They’re all very friendly and lovely and made me feel so much better.
“I will keep making Christmas plans – unless I have a heart attack,” she jokes. “Which I hope I won’t.”