Brian’s journey: Good advice and support every step of the way

13 July 2022

Brian Gallie.

Brian Gallie is looking forward to getting back outside. The Taranaki local talks enthusiastically about the new waterproof gear he just got. “When this rain stops I’m going to go outside and walk around the place, see what I can do.” 

It’s something he couldn’t have contemplated back in 2018, when he was first referred to the Taranaki Pinnacle extended care team (ExCT)* for support. 

At the time, Brian was isolated and had very limited mobility with an extremely painful hip. Getting up and down was too painful; he’d sleep in his armchair because he couldn’t get into his bed. His weight had increased to 160kg. 

“I was alone and really down on myself,” says Brian. “I was stuck in my armchair – I lived in that chair, the place was a mess, and my constant thought was: this isn’t the way a person should live. Then Hannah G got in touch.” 

Hannah G, or Hannah Gulliver, is a senior primary care social worker in the Taranaki ExCT. She contacted Brian after a referral from his doctor and, in Brian’s words, “started things on a new road.”

Re-drawing the map

Hannah talked to Brian and made a plan to change things. “One of the key things was that first contact, building trust and setting things up,” she says. 

“I referred Brian to our team dietitian for support around weight management, and to our pharmacist for help with his medication. We got the occupational therapist in to assess his home for aids that would make life easier and safer. We also made referrals for domestic help, to a podiatrist for his feet, and for mental health support.” 

Alongside the referrals and services, Hannah says little things, like dropping off a winter warmer pack, or bringing over some groceries, were important to remind Brian that people cared. “Knowing you’re cared about is so important for all of us, and a great motivator for change.” 

Brian was pleased to have someone to contact, and soon looked forward to people walking through the door. “Whenever a new person came in they contributed something new, even just sitting here talking. I ended up with a hospital bed that I could use, and a walker that was a big help to move around the house.” 

Most of all, he says, Hannah was instrumental in showing him he had options. “She came down here and every step of the way it was ‘we can help you with that.’ After that, I felt like there was a way into the future a little bit.”

Heading in the right direction

Brian needed to lose weight to become eligible for a much-needed hip replacement operation, a task made more challenging because of his limited mobility.

Hannah C, or Hannah Carter, is one of the ExCT dietitians who worked with Brian to get his weight down through nutrition. The plan included regular eating, reduced portions, and making more home-prepared meals, supported by monthly visits from Hannah C. 

“The visits were a constant reminder to me, and I felt an obligation not to tip the scales any higher,” says Brian. “I’m terrible at following instructions, but knowing Hannah C would be visiting made me more committed. They gently pushed me in the right direction.” 

When Brian hit the 140kg mark, they all celebrated. His surgery was scheduled for April 2020.

Getting around the roadblocks

Unfortunately, the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 saw Brian’s hip surgery cancelled. For nearly 18 months after that, it was repeatedly reschueduled and postponed.

During that time Brian needed to maintain his weight loss and navigate the health system. Taranaki ExCT senior primary care social worker, Holly Smith, helped him connect with the hospital and address any barriers that came up. 

“Holly was with me all the way through,” says Brian. “She was great at getting information I couldn’t get from the hospital. She was a big help.” 

Holly herself says she was “a total nuisance” who kept in contact with the hospital to help get information and support Brian, going to his pre-op appointment with him and supporting him to find post-operative care. 

“Brian worked blimmin’ hard to lose the weight and be fit for the operation – a lot of people don’t get to that point,” says Holly. “He’s amazing.” 

In January 2022 Brian had a successful hip replacement. He’s now back at home and more mobile than before, although walking is still challenging.

Arriving at a different place

Today, Brian shares the family home with his two brothers. They’ve been cleaning up the house, with plans to build another home on the section. He’s a lot happier in himself and his ability to self-manage, and has been discharged from the ExCT service.

“I’m pleased to have received the support from them. They always, without exception, had good advice for me,” says Brian. 

“Having that social contact helped me through emotionally. That’s the main thing. They were always turning up at various times, and I’d look forward to that and miss them when they were gone. They’ve pushed me through to not be depressed all the time.” 

“My attitude has changed. I dunno what the future holds, I’m just trying to stay as stress-free as possible and out of trouble. I just want to get outside and do something.”

* Pinnacle extended care teams work alongside general practices, focusing on better integration within communities to support long-term condition management plans and child health. Teams include health professionals such as clinical pharmacists, peer support workers, community health workers, dietitians, exercise consultants and more.