Mount rallies around bar owner after stroke

Jackie and Ross, centre, with their boys Tristan and Jackson. Supplied photo.

The fiancé of a popular Mount Maunganui man who recently suffered a serious medical emergency after a bout of Covid-19, says support from the local community has left her in tears and feeling “less alone”.

Ross Te Paa, who runs the Voodoo Lounge bar on Maunganui Road, suffered a clot on the brain and subsequent brain bleed on the evening of Monday, February 28.

Since then, support from the Mount Maunganui community has been overwhelming for his partner, Jackie McCaughan.

Jackie, who first met Ross in 2011, says it was whilst the 43-year-old was giving their one-year-old, Jackson, a bath that the first sign of a problem emerged.   

“He suddenly yelled out to me because his right arm was completely dead,” Jackie explains.

“It was just hanging off him.”

Jackie and the couple’s two children, Jackson and three-year-old Tristan, were Covid-19 positive at the time. Ross had recently concluded his 10-day isolation period for a previous Covid positive test result which Jackie says left him bed-ridden for a day.

Jackie, therefore, called the Covid-19 helpline first, informing them her husband’s symptoms had worsened. They passed her on to Healthline, whilst other warning signs started to emerge.

“He said it felt like pins and needles and like he had a ball rolling around in the back of his head and neck,” she says.

“He had some movements and he could smile and stuff. But he walked into the table, fridge and door all on his right side, when he came into the kitchen. I said to him, ‘it’s like the right side of your body is not connected to your brain.’”

After a 20-minute wait to talk to Healthline, the seriousness of the situation began to dawn on Jackie.

“The woman from Healthline was asking him his details, like his name and date of birth and he wasn’t really sure,” says Jackie.

“He was starting to get confused.”

At this point, an ambulance was called. On arrival, paramedics had to clear the room due to the other Covid-19 cases in the household. At that point, Jackie called Ross’s brother, Shaun, who immediately raced over to his Pāpāmoa home to be with his sibling.

Shaun went with Ross to hospital with Jackie having to stay behind with the kids in isolation but, unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.

“You kind of think when the ambulance comes that he is all good, right?” says Jackie.

“He is in medical hands so you kind of relax a little bit but it just got worse.”

Ross’s condition deteriorated at Tauranga Hospital and he was eventually airlifted to Waikato Hospital. He would eventually undergo three surgeries.

“It all happened on the Monday night and by Tuesday he was on life support at Waikato Hospital,” says Jackie, of the speed of Ross’s decline.

Jackie would not see him again until the Saturday, March 5, after her isolation period ended.

Ross has however exceeded expectations in his recovery.

He was moved to the neurology department in Hamilton on Friday, March 11, Jackie visiting in Hamilton whilst staying at an AirBnb with the kids. His condition improving, Ross returned to Tauranga Hospital on Wednesday, March 16, where he continues to undergo treatment.   

“His recovery has been amazing so far,” says Jackie.

“They said he might not be able to speak but he is speaking. He is only making some sense regarding his speech.

“But he is speaking and, with his age, that is really encouraging for his recovery. He has a big journey ahead in his rehabilitation.”

As for a cause, Ross’s bout of Covid just before his medical emergency is not being ruled out. Doctors, she says, inform her that Ross’s blood had become “sticky”, causing the clot that made him gravely ill.

“They first thought it was an aneurysm, something that was already in his brain, but that was not the case,” says Jackie.

“From what the doctors say it does sound like Covid can cause strokes, especially in younger people.”

The fact Covid may have been the cause for Ross’s illness has left Jackie feeling a tinge of remorse.

“I was actually quite glad when we got Covid as I thought we all had to get it at some point anyway and it was pretty mild,” she admits.

“But this, obviously, is a far worse outcome so I regret that feeling.”

Ross’s popularity through the hospitality and nightlife scene in Mount Maunganui has seen a deluge of tributes flooding in on social media and directly to Jackie.

The bar, which shut for four days after the incident, is now set to turn their weekly Sunday ‘Hospo Night’, across various Mount locations, in to ‘Rosspo Night’ this weekend, with tickets up for sale and the evening dedicated to supporting Ross and his whānau.

“I have to give a huge shout out to the Voodoo staff,” says Jackie.

“They have helped me big time to try to keep the bar running as best we can without Ross.

“And also the other hospitality joints in the Mount that are taking part on Sunday.”

A Givealittle page set up by Miriam McFarlane, a fellow member of the Bay of Plenty Symphonia in which Jackie plays violin and viola, has already reached over $23,000 in donations.

The whole experience has been immensely moving for Jackie, who is also thankful for her parents and Ross’s family for their support.

“The amount of messages I have been getting from people I do not even know but know him through hospitality it is amazing,” she says.

“The outpouring of support has just been phenomenal. It has bought tears to my eyes.

“It has all been way too much, but in a good way. I suddenly didn’t feel that alone anymore.”

Tickets for this weekend’s Rosspo Night are available here and the Givealittle page set up for Ross and Jackie can be seen at this link.

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