Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Dying mother trapped in two-bedroom flat with four sons

South Auckland solo mother Uheina Kioa (left) at home with her four sons. (from left) Basim Kafoa, 13, Pita Kafoa, 17, Mike Kafoa, 11 and Hedi Kafoa, 15. Photo / Sarah Ivey
South Auckland solo mother Uheina Kioa (left) at home with her four sons. (from left) Basim Kafoa, 13, Pita Kafoa, 17, Mike Kafoa, 11 and Hedi Kafoa, 15. Photo / Sarah Ivey

An Auckland mother with terminal cancer who is sharing a two-bedroom flat with her four sons is worried they won't cope in the small space as her condition deteriorates.

Uheina Kioa, 45, is suffering from advanced bowel cancer and has been given nine months to live.

The mother-of-seven has also struggled with depression and a marriage break-up in the past few years.

In August, when Ms Kioa underwent major surgery resulting in the diagnosis of her terminal bowel cancer, the family requested to be moved to a three or four bedroom Housing New Zealand (HNZ) home.

While they were offered a three-bedroom place in Mangere, Ms Kioa turned it down because she felt the area was unsafe for her kids.

Her oldest sons, Pita Raymon Kafo, 17, and Hedi Moani Kafoa, 15, lay out bedding in the lounge every night, while the younger ones, Basim Amini Kafoa, 13, and Mike Kelepi Kafoa, take the second bedroom.

"This is a difficult time for me. I'm still waiting for the response from Housing New Zealand. I don't understand what is going on."

Ms Kioa, who is visited by a nurse each day and takes morphine three to four times a week for pain, said she has had several meetings with HNZ.

A social worker from the Counties Manukau District Health Board also contacted the corporation in August after Ms Kioa's surgery recommending the family be moved to a bigger place.

Adding to their difficulties are the special needs of her 15-year-old son, who has no right hand.

Their last home had been modified to assist Hedi Moani, has been fitted with a prosthesis and requires help doing certain tasks.

Anything bigger than the two-bedroom flat would be better, especially as the situation was beginning to take a toll on her sons' education, she said.

"It's a struggle, they can't have a good space for their study."

Ms Kioa was also worried about how they would cope when her condition deteriorated.

"If I have other stuff to make me feel comfortable, make me feel well, it's maybe not going to fit."

Once she died, the four boys would be looked after by their three older half-siblings, she said.

A written statement from Housing New Zealand said Ms Kioa applied for a larger property with the corporation in October.

"In November we offered her a three bedroom property in one of her preferred suburbs, which she turned down. Unfortunately there are very few larger homes available in the area that she needs," spokesman Andrew Walmsley said.

"We understand this is a difficult time for Ms Kioa and her family, and we are continuing to work with her and with MSD [Ministry of Social Development] to find a solution."

HNZ were unable to say whether they were aware Ms Kioa had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, or whether they had received the copy of the letter sent by the social worker in August.


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