Paul Keesing had annoying gut-ache and back pain.

Not wanting to bother people with his problems, he would take the odd Panadol or have some Gaviscon to help ease the pain.

But the pain got too much last month and he was taken to Waikato Hospital. He was dead less than two weeks later.

His death has sparked warnings from health officials not to delay seeking medical help when symptoms appear.


Keesing leaves behind not only his colleagues at the Waikato District Health Board, where he was a senior planning manager, but also his much-loved daughter, Natalie, 8, and wife, Tash Kerrison.

However, the shock of it all is also still sinking in for Keesing's sister, Michelle, and mother, Maria.

Michelle Keesing said she didn't even know her brother was sick until Kerrison texted her saying he had moved to a new ward.

"I didn't even know he was in hospital because that's the type of person he was, he didn't want to bother anyone. But I was like 'what?'.

"So I texted him and said what's happening, where are you, and he said, 'Oh I've just got a sore gut and I'm recovering now'. He always downplays stuff."

He'd had a stomach issue for over a year, she said, and although he had been to the doctor, he was just treating it with tablets and Gaviscon.

But then two weeks ago, the pain became too much and late one night he called his mother-in-law to take him to hospital.

"He never said very much, he was such a very quiet and personal man so you didn't really get a lot out of him," Maria Keesing said. "You would say 'how are you?' and 'yep I'm ok, yep I'm sweet'."


Paul, a staunch Chiefs fan despite being originally from Howick, Auckland, wasn't the first sudden death in their family. His father, Alan, died suddenly three years ago. He developed a weak immune system after a battle with rheumatoid arthritis.

Married Father-of-one Paul Kessing with his sister, Michelle Keesing. Photo / Michelle Keesing
Married Father-of-one Paul Kessing with his sister, Michelle Keesing. Photo / Michelle Keesing

He contracted what was a simple cold but quickly went downhill before dying about a week later.

"He was very, very close to his dad, he missed his dad everyday. It's sort of a relationship that a lot of sons never have with fathers, but his dad was an exceptional dad and Paul idolised him," Maria Keesing said.

Kerrison said they had been married for 14 years, but Natalie was the apple of his eye.

Since his death Natalie had been distracted by the increased visits by family and friends but after he was farewelled on Wednesday, Kerrison predicts it will get tougher from now on.

"She understands what's happened but it's not going to really hit her until we get into a regular routine where it would have been something that he would have done ... it's only just going to get harder from this point."

Kerrison is devastated that her daughter will now grow up without her father.

"That's the hardest part. The dad that she loved and spent a lot of time with, that she looks like, that he's not going to be around and participate in things with her."

As for his illness, she said initially, a couple of years ago, he was told he had gastritis, before suffering another setback at Christmas.

Paul Keesing worked at the Waikato District Health Board. Photo / Supplied
Paul Keesing worked at the Waikato District Health Board. Photo / Supplied

"There's been ongoing pain but I don't know if that was directly linked, then there was an issue at Christmas, he had back pain again.

"It's one of those things that people need to know that back pain isn't always just back pain."

It wouldn't be until he was in hospital, in late October, that they would discover he had pancreatic necrosis - an acute infection in his pancreas - but by then it was too late.

"Could it have been prevented? I don't know. The symptoms had been showing for a while.

"He never let on how bad it was and it wasn't until you saw him or you talked to the nurses that you realised that it was actually quite serious."

His mother is now mourning the loss of not only her husband but her son, while recovering from the removal of a cancerous lesion on her lung.

But her son's death is still sinking in.

"It's unbelievable that it's happened. I can't believe that I won't see him at Christmas, I can't believe that he won't ring me up ... [with Natalie] and visit me for the weekend.

"He always made sure that I was okay, that I didn't need anything."

She said the family are thankful for all the help - both professionally, in trying to save her son, and personally - from staff at Waikato Hospital.

Waikato DHB chief executive Nigel Murray also paid tribute to Keesing, saying that he was "excellent at his job, able to hold information on the whole picture as well as attention to detail".

"As a colleague, he will be remembered by many staff for his wry observations on human nature, his tolerance and his ability to remain calm in any situation."

Men's Health Trust trustee John Berry said while he wasn't aware of the circumstances of Keesing's death, it seemed an appropriate reminder for all men to open up more about their health, whether it was to family or friends.

"But as guys we need to learn to do that It's not just talking to your mates but getting them engaged in conversations and listening to what they say as well and getting used to start conversations about their health."