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Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia

RHD Resouces

Sticking to Treatment

West Australian performance artist Nelson Baker has turned his experience of living with RHD into a powerful video message to other young Australians.

The video 'Sticking to Treatment' came from an idea from Janice Forrester at WA’s Rheumatic Heart Disease Control Program. She had heard of Nelson and thought the young Health Promotion Scholarship recipient could give a patient’s perspective at a community awareness-raising event.

Nelson, 21, created ‘Sticking to Treatment’, and now a music video has been released by Goolarri Media for the Western Australia Country Health Service. In it, Nelson raps about adhering to a decade-long regime of monthly antibiotic shots.

“Rap is my way of talking to young Indigenous people,” said Nelson. “I never kept a diary, so rap lets me get out what I keep inside. By letting the pain come out you realise you’re not the only one. You don’t know what you have until it’s down on paper. It builds you as a character.”

RHD can damage the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body, and results from acute rheumatic fever (ARF), the immune system’s over–reaction to a group A streptococcus infection (such as a sore throat) in up to 6% of kids between 5 and 14. Many of those children are Aboriginal.  Only penicillin injections given every 28 days can avert the streptococcal infection which causes ARF.

“In Sticking to Treatment" I’m talking not just to the patient but everyone around them: family and friends, communities and the support sector. RHD dominates every aspect of your life. Things you don’t think will be hard turn out to be hard. It’s always in the back of your head. An injection is normally painless, but a painful one can scare the patient off treatment,” Nelson continued.

Treatment-neglect can beset any teenager, and for Janice the message goes wider than RHD.  “It’s that non-conforming age when you’re rebelling, not engaged,” she said. “This video should be tremendously useful in reaching out to young people in various life struggles towards choices for later on.”

'Sticking to Treatment' was launched to community members, friends and family at the Gimme Club in Broome on 22nd June 2015.