One of our many unsung healthcare heroes, juggling the pandemic and personal grief with positivity
For many of us, the 2021 lockdown in Tāmaki Makaurau was tougher than all the lockdowns before. Not only was it the longest continuous period at the highest alert level, but many of us arrived at this lockdown already feeling fatigued or overwhelmed from the challenges of the previous 18 months.
The lockdown was especially difficult for our hard-working healthcare workers. Not only our doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, but also the many people working behind-the-scenes to make sure our hospitals and clinics could remain open and functioning.
Pita Fiepalangi Timoti is one of those whose mahi has been integral to Auckland’s healthcare system – but one whose work may often go unnoticed. As an in-house security officer for Middlemore Hospital, Pita and his team have seen more than their fair share of tough days, working tirelessly throughout all alert levels to make sure patients, staff and visitors are kept safe.
Pita was nominated by his wife Terri, who wrote:
“He works for the Counties Manukau DHB and is in in-house security at Middlemore hospital. As security there they have to deal with patients who are a threat to others.
“Through these tough times he manages to still go back to work at the hospital as well as looking after his sick wife and two children during these hard times in lockdown.”
In person, Pita is soft-spoken and humble.
“We’ve had a lot of hard days… But there’s good support at work. It’s like my family away from home, to be honest.”
Pita has found challenges easier to deal with when he tries to see things in a positive light. This outlook has helped him through a number of personal challenges he’s faced over the past two years, including losing first his father, and then his mother, to cancer.
“During the first lockdown in 2020, my dad passed away. And last year, during the lockdown in August, my mum followed my dad… It was hard.”
“It’s taken a strain on pretty much all of us mentally. But it’s important to keep your chin up and stay positive. I try just to keep on the positive side and not think of the negatives, you know?”
While coping with these losses, Pita has also been supporting his wife through illness, and caring for their two children, aged three and eight.
“The kids have been quite understanding - and annoying at the same time,” he laughs. “Just calling out ‘Daddy’ every time they’ve got a question… Which is a lot!”
Taking time to look after yourself is important when dealing with stress – and this is especially important for our healthcare workers navigating the ins and outs of the pandemic. One way Pita has managed to make it through these tough times is through exercise. He makes sure to set aside time to boost his wellbeing by getting outdoors for a run or a walk – his favourite spot is the Ōrākei Basin.
“My getaway is the Basin. I’ll go and run until I can’t speak! And on a lazy day I’ll walk. I’ll tell myself at least I’m out there trying to do something for myself.”
Pita is keen that other people working in the healthcare system know the importance of reaching out and talking to others if they’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
“I'm pretty much an open book. Everyone knows what I’m going through. I think that's one thing that’s kept me going, I'll talk to pretty much anyone about whatever I'm going through.”
“Remember, regardless of what you’re going through, there’s always someone you could talk to if you're feeling down. Don’t bottle it up - let it out.”