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Two doctors, writer, councillor co-author book during lockdown

August 25, 2020

Two doctors, writer, councillor co-author book during lockdown

Three of the co-authors, Cathy Casey, Kees Lodder and Alex Casey, at the book launch in Auckland. Photo: Supplied

A Whangarei palliative care doctor, whose mother was one of 40 at a rest home who died from Covid-19, spent lockdown writing a book from the perspective of an eight-year-old girl.

Kees Lodder wrote the first chapter of Opening Little Boxes on a Saturday morning in March, locked in his office, while his partner Auckland Councillor Cathy Casey sat agitated in the other room, unsure what he was doing.

He emerged four hours later with 4000 words.

“It was brilliant,” Ms Casey says.

“He put himself in a little girl's shoes. I thought it was so good and asked: 'Can I be part of this'?"

By the end of it Ms Casey’s daughter, writer Alex Casey and physician Dr Manuela Bertão, who Mr Lodder met while working at the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh late last year, also came onboard as authors.

A draft of the first chapter and illustrations drawn by Cathy Casey have been donated to Auckland Libraries’ COVID-19 archive: A snapshot in time initiative.

Opening Little Boxes is about a three-generational family sheltering in place during lockdown.

It’s about kindness, love and the underacknowledged fear and anxieties of children during the pandemic.

Each author wrote a chapter of the book from the perspective of a family member, including the pets.

Mr Lodder says he’s not a writer, but a collector of stories.

“I'm a palliative care specialist. For the last 40 years I've been collecting stories of incidents, of patients, of things I see around me. I’m a great collector of stories.”

Mr Lodder helped prepare Whangarei Hospital for the pandemic.

"Frankly, I was petrified. We had 100 empty beds, and we were just waiting for it, for a massive influx."

The influx never came, but Mr Lodder was faced with his own crisis when his mother died from the virus in the Netherlands.

“The book is dedicated to her."

All of the royalties from the book will be donated to homeless charities Auckland City Mission and Lifewise.

The Auckland Libraries’ Heritage team is still calling for submissions for the lockdown archive.

Diary entries and illustrations, photographs, paintings and mandala have been donated so far.

Senior librarian heritage collection Sharon Smith says the archive will provide a view back in time for future generations.

“We feel honoured to be receiving things that people have taken the time though and energy to produce. They are real treasures.”

The items will be available for viewing by the public in due course.

To donate items, contact Sharon Smith (sharon.smith@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz).

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