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NEW ZEALAND SOLDIER NAMED ‘GLOBAL HERO’

1 October 2015

Father of three to run the race of a lifetime in effort to increase focus on chronic pain

Dion Taka named Global Hero

When Private Dion Taka’s torso was pierced during enemy fire in Afghanistan three years ago, the New Zealand Soldier from Burnham, had no idea that his shattered body would one day be strong enough to run in a marathon-but this October, Dion will do just that.

Selected as part of an elite group of international runners for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in the United States, the father of three, is keen to prove that Kiwis ‘don’t give up’ and have a well-deserved place amongst the world’s best. But Dion is not just running this race to highlight he is “back”, he is running for the thousands of people in NZ-himself included-living with chronic pain. Before Afghanistan, Dion fought to protect NZ, now he has a new battle – the battle to reduce stigma associated with chronic pain in New Zealand.

According to Dion, “I was very lucky to come home from Afghanistan. Others didn’t. After my return I was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome. Having a diagnosis and ‘name’ for the pain I was experiencing helped however the fight had just begun as getting access to my spinal cord stimulator was a challenge. 

For Dion, despite a diagnosis and the fact that his injury had been sustained in active combat as a member of the New Zealand Defence Force, access to the treatment providing the opportunity for Dion to live well with his pain revealed a battlefield of a different kind.

“My wife Frances was a strong advocate and pushed the Health System. I could not have done it without her. Since receiving the device, my pain has reduced 80 per cent and I have regained some of the activities I enjoyed before the injury – including running. It feels strange being named a ‘Global Hero’ but I am determined to use the chance to highlight that pain is not invisible and Kiwis with chronic pain should not give up – they deserve better.”

It is estimated that chronic pain impacts more than one in 10 people in New Zealand.[i]  Dr Rick Acland, Pain Specialist and Director of Medical Services at Burwood Hospital highlights the prevalence of pain in New Zealand is line with other geographies however treatment options and the pathway to pain relief in this country is not; “Chronic pain is a multidimensional condition. In New Zealand the psychological management of pain is emphasised; this is important, however the search for relief is crucial for patient wellbeing. Spinal Cord Stimulation can have a dramatic effect in certain pain syndromes: such was Dion’s pain problem. Treatment options are available however I estimate only 10 per cent are gaining access. Dion, with his wife Frances, needed to persevere diligently to access spinal cord stimulation and it took time. Dion’s health outcomes and attitude highlight the value of appropriate access to therapy. We need to do more to help those missing out,” he said.

In congratulating Dion on his selection as a Global Hero, Faye Sumner, Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Technology Association of New Zealand (MTANZ) also acknowledged the role of medical technology in benefiting the wider community; “I wish Dion every success during the Twin Cities marathon in October.

“Dion’s recovery assisted with medical technology demonstrates patients can return to work and regain greater empowerment over their quality of life. Advances in medical technology also generate healthcare cost savings through less invasive procedures, shorter hospitalisations and faster recoveries. New Zealand must continue to invest in a sound health innovation ecosystem for the health and wealth of our country,” she said.

Frances, Dion’s wife will be joining him on the trip and participating in the 10 mile event; “Access to spinal cord stimulation brought Dion home to us. He was in so much pain he wasn’t present. Now he has a life worth living again – I have my husband back and my kids have their dad. We are really proud of him.”

Dion had to learn to stand again… he had to learn to jump, to walk and then to run. Dion beat out 300 nominees from across the globe for the coveted honour of ‘Global Hero’ and will head to the United States in early October with wife Frances. Supporting him will be 2013 Global Hero and pacemaker recipient, Warren Williams, a school teacher and marathon runner from Sydney who was selected as a mentor for the international event.

About Global Heroes

25 runners from 16 different countries Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States and Zambia will compete in the 2015 Global Heroes program.  This year marks the program’s 10th anniversary.

Each runner has a medical device to treat a condition such as heart disease, diabetes, spinal disorders, chronic pain or neurological disorders. The Medtronic Global Heroes program, launched in 2006, celebrates their accomplishments and passion for running, which serves as an inspiration to others living with chronic diseases.

Global Heroes participants are selected by Twin Cities In Motion, the non-profit organisation that directs the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. In addition to providing race entry and travel expenses, the Medtronic Foundation will donate $1,000 in honour of each runner to a non-profit patient organisation that educates and supports people who live with the Global Hero’s condition.

Additional information about the Medtronic Global Heroes program can be found at www.medtronic.com/globalheroes.  Visit the Medtronic Global Heroes Facebook page.

To learn more about chronic pain, and treatment options including spinal cord stimulation visit http://www.medtronic.com.au

[i] http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/health-new-zealand-adults-2011-12#hsc Accessed 25 August 2015

One Comment leave one →
  1. lm1mdtanz permalink*
    1 October 2015 1:19 pm

    Watch this episode of Campbell Live to hear more about Dion’s experience in Afghanistan: http://www.3news.co.nz/tvshows/campbelllive/defence-force-private-dion-takas-story-of-sacrifice-and-courage-2014042513#axzz3nHJxscv2

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