Dylan didn’t feel like a superhero
A year ago, Dylan Hohepa struggled to lift his young son or toss a rugby ball around. “When I was a young kid, if Dad picked me up I’d feel that he was my superhero. I didn’t feel like a superhero,” says Dylan, “I knew something was majorly wrong with my back.”
From Moerewa to Mangere Bridge
Dylan grew up in Moerewa, a small town in Northland where sporting talent was rife. “I played tennis, volleyball, basketball, rugby and league ‒ we really lived life.”
Everything about Dylan’s life was physical. He had left a corporate finance job to pursue his passion for building, he had a boisterous young family, and he was in the middle of building a new family home in South Auckland. Then everything went pear-shaped.
“Here I was, a young guy but I felt like I was 70 years old.”
When Dylan first started having back pain, he knew things were bad. “I couldn’t move, couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t go out and kick a ball around with my kids without being in pain. I felt the walls closing in on me in terms of what I could do physically, and it was affecting me mentally big time. I was also worried about my job as a builder as it’s very physical.”
Dylan’s wife, Michelle, noticed Dylan getting grumpier, even with the kids. “Finally, I asked him what was really going on. He had been hiding his pain and worry from me. Once I knew how bad it was, I made him go to the doctor.”
“After seeing a specialist, I found out my spine had collapsed and was out of alignment by 50 percent. Part of my spine was bone on bone and it felt like electric shocks in my back. Once we found that out, I was quickly booked in for a spinal fusion.”
Wonder woman saves the day
Rewind to a few years earlier when Michelle had suggested Southern Cross health insurance for the whole family. Dylan’s initial reaction was, “Don’t spend the money on me, I’m fine, just cover the boys.” But after having her own experience with needing health insurance, Michelle insisted and convinced Dylan to join up too. “Now I’m so thankful to her. She was my rock star.”
Things moved pretty fast after Dylan’s diagnosis. “Southern Cross covered my physio, my X-rays right through to MRI scan and spinal surgery.” Dylan was able to see a specialist neck and back doctor and surgeon really quickly. “Yeah he changed my life that guy. Southern Cross changed my life too.”
The surgery was going to cost $45,000 but without it, Dylan would have had a whole life of pain in front of him. Both Michelle and Dylan were thankful, “We were so lucky to have the support of Southern Cross ‒cover for his surgery was included in our plan so we didn’t have to worry about it.”
While Dylan was going through his surgery and recovery, it was a tough time with a lot of pressure on Michelle to keep things going. “I don’t know how we coped . I was running my own business and that was mental, our house was half-built, and my oldest son was also having health issues.”
Now Dylan is taking life back… and he can pick up his kids
After surgery, Dylan had a long recovery. “What helped was Southern Cross had my back covered. We were able to keep afloat financially.”
Because Dylan was able to choose his surgery date, he could make it work around his life. It meant that he was able to take his son to his first day of school. Today the Hohepa family are in their new house and Dylan feels freer and lighter ‒ more of a superhero again. ‘I’m at a point where I can lift both of my boys now. That was probably one of the coolest parts.”
“Now life is good, and I really appreciate being healthy and pain-free. I can keep working doing what I love, it’s great for my kids to see me happy. My youngest son loves building too, he loves putting on his gumboots and his high-vis vest like Dad.”
“Southern Cross is there for Kiwi families like ours. They were there for me when I really needed it and I definitely feel like I have a better quality of life now. To have that ‒ it’s priceless.”
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*Dylan Hohepa is on the Wellbeing Two plan with Southern Cross.