The 81-year-old survived cancer 25 years ago, a heart attack 10 years ago, and has spent the past six years being treated for glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration – all under the care of Auckland DHB.

Throughout the 25 years of my treatment, the people at Auckland DHB were brilliant and caring.

“I can’t speak of them any higher, then or now,” Alan says of the teams at Auckland DHB.  “Going back 25 years, when I was treated by the DHB’s regional cancer care, the people were brilliant and caring.  I was 57 years old when I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

“I immediately underwent surgery, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy for six months, so I was at Auckland City Hospital five days a week in the early stages of my radiotherapy.  It was scary, but the care I received was absolutely marvellous.”

Through its Regional Cancer Centre, Auckland DHB provides cancer care, treatment and support for 1.5 million people in greater Auckland.  It treats all patients in the Northern Region, north of Mercer, and is the only public provider of radiation therapy (radiotherapy) in the region.

Fast-forward 15 years, Alan was back at Auckland City Hospital, this time undergoing a quadruple bypass and aortic valve replacement.

“I remember it was a weekend and I thought I had indigestion, but a couple of days later I wasn’t feeling happy about it, so I saw my GP.  Following a blood test I was whisked straight the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) at Auckland City Hospital.  I couldn’t believe I’d had a heart attack, which most likely happened when I was asleep.  They immediately gave me blood-thinning injections and I stayed in the CCU for 10 days.”

Alan was operated on by cardiothoracic surgeon David Haydock, who performed his quadruple bypass and replaced his aortic valve.  While Alan’s surgery was in 2009, Mr Haydock still cares for Auckland DHB patients today, and he also performed an aortic valve replacement twice on Alan’s niece.

“Mr Haydock is incredible and my cardiologists looked after me so well, bringing everything forward when I needed it, and ensuring I was operated on straight away.  I still see my cardiologist Dr Alexei Chataline every two years, so it’s reassuring to know I’m being monitored and the valve will be replaced if needed.”

Auckland DHB provides cardiovascular services for the greater Northern Region, including cardiothoracic surgery, cardiology and vascular surgery, and runs the cardiothoracic and vascular intensive care unit.  It also delivers the National Heart and Lung Transplant Service, caring for all New Zealand patients before, during and after their transplants.

Alongside Auckland City Hospital, Auckland DHB offers many outpatient and day-stay services at Greenlane Clinical Centre, including its Eye Clinic where Alan has been treated since 2013.  Alan, who has worn glasses since he was a child, was referred to the Eye Clinic (Auckland DHB’s Ophthalmology Department) following a regular eye health check at the Optometry Department at University of Auckland Medical School.

“It came as a shock to be diagnosed with all three conditions – cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration – but my experience with the Eye Clinic couldn’t be any better.  Everyone is great and always so helpful.  I am especially thankful to Consultant Dr David Squirrell, Clinical Nurse Specialist Olga Brochner, Nurse Practitioner Carol Slight, and the lovely Zhen who administers the eye injections.  Because of all my issues, I once had three appointments in one day, and they made it so easy for me.”

Alan’s macular degeneration means he has regular injections in his eye, sometimes as often as once a month, but the nurse specialists always ensure it is fast and painless.  “I was nervous at first, but I don’t even feel it, they do such a great job.

“Things are stable at the moment, but I do eye exercises at home, and have to let the team know if I notice any changes.  It’s reassuring to know I’m being so closely monitored and support is always there.  Without the team’s care, I simply wouldn’t have the vision or independence I enjoy today.”

What is Alan’s secret to overcoming so much?  Alan believes you have to look after your own health and take responsibility for your body. He has always trusted his intuition to get second opinions and followed his gut if something hasn’t felt right, which ultimately led him to the life-saving care he received at Auckland DHB.

“I’ve always just known if something isn’t right.  I’m so glad I stuck to my guns and had a colonoscopy 25 years ago and I’m so grateful for the treatment and support I’ve received across every Auckland DHB department.”