Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

“I wanted to help in how I could” – Dame Valerie Adams

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John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director

Former Olympian lends a helping hand to Tongan boy with diabetes.

Sione Tangifua is the only one his age living with type one diabetes in Tonga and he’s not letting the condition hold him down.  

“I enjoy going to school to play, write and do sports,” Sione says.

The seven-year-old was diagnosed when he was three years old and his father, Tavite Tangifua, is keeping a close eye on his health.

“It is hard to manage and control as he is still young. If only he was diagnosed when he was a bit older, he will have a better understanding of his condition,” Tangifua says.

“And it will be easier to manage, but it’s hard while he is still so young.”

Sione has daily insulin injections to help with his blood sugar levels to keep him going.

“We look to the future; if there is an opportunity to get medicine from overseas that is better, we will then contact the ministry of health to ask for that medication,” Tangifua says.

The cause of the chronic illness is yet to be known and although there is medication available there is no cure.

In Auckland, Dame Valerie Adams knows first hand what it’s like as her son Tava was diagnosed when he was only 15 months old.

“The aim of the game is to make sure he lives a normal life,” she says.

“Imagine trying to keep your son alive on a daily basis and putting the trust in other people’s hands to keep your son alive on a daily basis, it’s hard work but comes with a lot of planning a lot of training of other people but you have to really work together to make sure you create a village around you.”

Her village has extended to include the Tangifua family back in Tonga. She met Sione and his parents on a recent trip and has gathered some medical supplies to be sent over.

“I wanted to help in how I could and that was providing some more resources for them with some testing strips, testing machine that was more kid-friendly, ketone strips to make sure they are on top of ketones because the impact of the illness of what it’s doing to him now is going to impact him long term,” Adams says.

The former Olympian has thrown a lifeline to a family on the same health journey and is in need of vital medicine.

In the meantime, the Tangifua family welcomes the support from Adams as they continue to care for Sione.

“That is our hope and want, to find somewhere where there is better opportunity,” Tangifua says. 

“But for now, we adhere to the doctor’s advice while we manage and monitor the condition.” 



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