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LETTERS: A humble plea for help

Saturday 8 January 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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LETTERS: A humble plea for help

Dear Editor, I’m not the kind of person who writes letters to the editor, but at this point, I don’t know what else to do. I’m writing this with the hope that someone who reads it will be able to help me or at least point me in the right direction.

I am a mother to three young boys, all of them under 10. I work for CITC to put food on the table. My partner has been imprisoned since the middle of last year. He is serving a three-year sentence for possessing cannabis.

He is also very sick. The warden rang me about six weeks ago when I was at work to say he had problem with his breathing and his left arm had blown up like a balloon.

I went up to hospital when I finished my shift. My partner’s arm was black and the rest of his body was swollen.

He has been in and out of hospital ever since. He has not eaten anything in almost 40 days. He has lost around 31 kilos in less than a few months. His skin is grey and his eyes are yellow. The warden has told me that Arorangi Prison does not have the capacity to care for him in his condition.

I am not allowed to speak to a doctor about his condition, as he is not under my care but under the care of the State. I am allowed to see him for two hours on Sundays. His condition seems to worsen every Sunday, though the doctors tell me he is fine.

Last Saturday, we were allowed to see him for 10 minutes. He could barely talk but managed to communicate to me that he feels like giving up because the pain is so intense. All three of our boys burst into tears.

Medical staff are giving him fluids and trying various drugs. Currently, he is on 22 daily medications. He is 38 years old.

I’m very grateful for the time and energy that the hardworking doctors and staff at Rarotonga Hospital have spent caring for my partner. I also strongly believe he needs medical attention that exceeds the capacity of our healthcare system.

Thanks to the support of my community, I can come up with the money to fly him to New Zealand for another medical opinion. However, I have been told that because he is a prisoner, this is not an option. In order to be eligible for medical care in New Zealand, he needs a referral letter from the medical team on Rarotonga. His doctor is refusing to write this letter and insisting that Rarotonga Hospital is taking adequate care of him.

Several years ago, when my mum complained of pain, we took her to Rarotonga Hospital. The doctors told her she had arthritis. My dad suspected it was more serious than that. He paid for her to fly to New Zealand, where the doctor told her she had stage four cancer and the disease was too advanced to respond to treatment. She died several months later.

My fear is that my partner is not being properly diagnosed or treated and that my boys are going to lose their father. I shared my fear with hospital staff and was met with defensiveness and anger, which I do understand. My intention was not to criticise anyone who has been tending to my partner but to advocate for his health based on what I learnt when I lost my mum.

Recently I read in this newspaper that a man charged of repeatedly raping a young girl was permitted to return to Mangaia instead of being imprisoned. I feel so frustrated by this. The father of my children possessed marijuana, which was illegal but did not harm anyone. He is now being denied the right to a medical opinion that could potentially save his life.

Sending my partner to New Zealand would not cost the taxpayer anything. In fact, it could relieve part of the financial burden he is currently imposing on our government. He is taking up a bed at Rarotonga Hospital and we need free beds as we prepare for the borders to open in the middle of a global pandemic. A warden is with my partner around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to make sure he doesn’t escape (though he can barely walk). I assume this is also a significant expense.

I am working long hours to feed my kids and save money to pay a lawyer to help me sort this out. One lawyer quoted me $35,000, which is considerably more than I earn in a year. If anyone reading this has a legal or medical background or can share insight that might help me to effectively advocate for my partner, please contact me on Facebook Messenger.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. It breaks my heart to think about how our societies treat our prisoners. So many of them have deep wounds, and instead of thinking about how to heal them, we put them out of our sight and out of our minds. We treat prisoners like they’re no longer people.

Jacqueline Ngatai-Cowan

Vaimaanga


Correction

In Saturday's issue we published a letter which stated that a man found guilty of repeatedly raping a young woman was permitted to return to Mangaia.  We should not have allowed the publication of that statement because it is untrue.  There are charges but no plea has yet been entered.