DHB team step up to save Santa’s Christmas


21 December 2020


Father Christmas faces a lot of challenges at this very busy time of year… but a positive bowel screening test was the last thing he expected.


With the big man’s festive duties due to start on 12 December, the team at Whanganui District Health Board went the extra mile to make sure he was at Santa’s Grotto in Whanganui’s Trafalgar Square shopping mall and no kids were disappointed.


Glenn Horrex, 70, was looking forward to his gig as “the big fat guy in red” when the bowel screening test kit arrived in the post as part of the national programme which was launched for the Whanganui DHB region in October 2019. 


“I thought the test kit was really cool, so I read up on the screening programme, did the test and sent it away.


“I was fine, had no symptoms, so I thought ‘that’ll be that’.”


Glenn was playing golf when he got a call from his doctor that his test had come back positive. His playing partners were a couple of GPs, including Dr John McMenamin who happens to also be the primary care lead for the National Bowel Screening Programme. 


“John gave me a lot of help and advice and my GP set the process out. He is rurally based, but said there was no problem getting seen at Whanganui Hospital.”


Glenn Horrex takes up his spot in Santa’s grotto.

Glenn got a call from the hospital but the colonoscopy schedule was booked up until 14 December and Glenn didn’t want any children missing out on Santa.


He was thinking he might have to postpone the procedure till the new year, but when the hospital team heard who their new patient was and the important job he had, they knew they had to do something.


The team decided to run the list a bit late on 11 December and fit Glenn in as an extra. No one missed out.


At 11am on 11 December, Glenn had his colonoscopy, and at 11am on 12 December Father Christmas was “in the suit and ready to go”.


A positive test result does not necessarily mean bowel cancer and, in fact, Glenn had some polyps (small growths in the lining of the bowel) removed. Removing the polyps at an early stage prevents these from developing into bowel cancer.


As one of the polyps was at an advanced stage, it was important that the procedure had not been delayed.


He has now been put on three-yearly surveillance.


“The whole thing went like a breeze, and the people were wonderful … so professional and so kind,” said Glenn.


“It made me realise this is so important, so why don’t we talk about it more – there needs to be more discussion around these sort of health topics.


“This screening programme will save lives. If they catch the cancer early, you’ve got a real good chance of a good life.”


Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in New Zealand, claiming 1200 Kiwi lives every year, and the screening programme is for men and women aged 60 to 74 years. 


Screening saves lives by helping find the cancer early when it can often be successfully treated. People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90 per cent chance of long-term survival. 


Further information about the bowel screening test is available by calling 0800 924 432.