Family who lost two brothers to COVID-19 calling on Aotearoa to take Delta seriously

A Tokoroa family who lost two brothers to COVID-19 is calling on Aotearoa to take the threat of Delta seriously.

Brothers Alan and Nigel Te Hiko died from the virus last year and their family doesn't want any other whānau to experience the same grief and loss they have suffered. 

When Auckland went into lockdown in August 2020, the cool store factory Americold became ground zero for the outbreak.

For Alan Te Hiko, Americold wasn't just his workplace but a second home and his workmates were his whānau

"Quite a few of them referred to my husband as their work dad," Alan's wife Trish Te Hiko says.

Her husband's health started to spiral down after a weekend away in Tokoroa.

Once Alan tested positive for COVID-19, the couple were quickly taken into quarantine at Jet Park in Auckland.

"I think we were in isolation for a couple of days, then he went to the hospital," Trish says. 

"Then they put him in an induced coma and 14 days after that he passed away."

His mokopuna Calani Te Hiko was fighting for her own life in ICU after contracting COVID-19 when she heard her koro had died.

"I cried and I was alone in the room, so that was worse and I just messaged him on Messenger and I told him I loved him."

Trish Te Hiko (right) is Alan's wife.
Trish Te Hiko (right) is Alan's wife. Photo credit: The Hui

At the same time Alan's brother Nigel Te Hiko caught COVID and two weeks after Alan died, Nigel lost his battle with COVID-19.

Today, Trish says the Te Hiko whānau members who survived COVID-19 are still grappling with the long-lasting health impacts.

"My daughter - it's been a year since she had COVID and she's still suffering side effects from that. She can't taste, she can't smell," she says. 

"Alan's other brother that went to ICU as well - he had to re-learn how to breathe and now sleeps with a machine at night."

Calani has one message for people who are doubting if COVID-19 is real and the validity of vaccinations.

"It's really easy, it's just a needle - it's better than being in a hospital bed fighting for your life or losing someone who means so much to you just because you want to be an egg and believe what everyone else says."

Māori vaccination rates remain worryingly low - but Trish wants Aotearoa to take the threat of COVID seriously.

She wants other whānau to be spared the same mamae and loss they've endured as a result of COVID.

"Do you want a phone call late at night from a doctor saying, 'I don't think your husband is going to last much longer - you have to look at turning off life-support.'

"Do you want that phone call?"

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and NZ On Air.

Family who lost two brothers to COVID-19 calling on Aotearoa to take Delta seriously