In 2008, renowned NZ singer and songwriter Mahinarangi Tocker died after an asthma attack. As a part of World Asthma Day and New Zealand Music Month, Kawe Kōrero spoke to her sister Kimai Tocker about the struggles her sister went through as an asthmatic.
“She was always sick as a child. Sometimes she was so unwell she would to be taken to hospital. It was always an emergency due to the serious nature of her symptoms. She would need the doctors and their machines to help her breathe.”
70 people died from asthma last year alone and one in five Māori and Pacific Island children have been diagnosed with asthma. This compares to 15% of children and 11% of adults with the disease in the NZ population.
Tocker says there are a number of methods to deal with the illness.
“I remember when she was in her teens, she enjoyed swimming and diving. She was very good at that. She would enter competitions and would win and that would help alleviate her illness. She also had medication to help ease her breathing problems. Rest was essential. Smoking did not help."
Aside from swimming and medication, her passion for singing also helped Mahinaarangi Tocker cope.
“Singing was a kind of medication for her. Singing exercised her lungs and that was another kind of healing for her and she enjoyed entertaining other people.”