Don’t let your respiratory condition run your life

Press Release – Asthma Foundation

Managing your respiratory condition can be the difference between letting it run your life, or living a much healthier life and achieving your goals. That’s the powerful message that comes through loudly and clearly when you look at the list …21 November 2011

Don’t let your respiratory condition run your life

Managing your respiratory condition can be the difference between letting it run your life, or living a much healthier life and achieving your goals.

That’s the powerful message that comes through loudly and clearly when you look at the list of nine inspiring New Zealanders who have been selected as Supreme Achievers for the Foundation’s 2011 Achievers Awards.

The Awards acknowledge and celebrate New Zealanders with respiratory conditions who achieve things in their lives despite their conditions.

The Asthma Foundation’s Achievers Awards will be held on Tuesday 22 November (tomorrow night) at Government House in Wellington from 5.30pm until 7.30pm.

The Supreme Achievers who will be presented with awards by the Governor-General His Excellency, Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, tomorrow Tuesday at Government House, include, among others:

• an 11-year-old with asthma who’s New Zealand’s champion high diver in his age group
• a woman with asthma who’s represented New Zealand in international Ironman competitions,
• a young man who won Auckland Grammar School’s prize for personal excellence in every field of endeavour,
• a Māori warden with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma),
• a budding mathematician who has achieved distinction in the University of New South Wales’ Australian Maths Examination three times. (This is an international exam).

The Supreme Achievers come from Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, the West Coast and Whangarei. They are:

• • Open Adult Asthma Oringa Barach, Whangarei
• • Open Asthma 5 to 12 Years Nathan Brown, Auckland
• • Open Asthma 13 to 18 Years Mathew Myers, Auckland
• • Open COPD George Anderson, Napier
• • Māori Asthma 5 to 12 Years (two winners in this category) Joshua Nicholls (Ngati Kahungunu), Westport
• • Māori Asthma 5 to 12 Years (two winners in this category) Harlem Morrell-Wilson (Tainui), Hastings
• • Māori COPD Nita Rouse (Ngāpuhi), Napier
• • Respiratory Conditions Des Vincent-Dustow, Wellington
• • Cody Forbes Award Vaughan Somerville, Auckland

The Respiratory Conditions category is for people with respiratory conditions other than asthma and COPD.

The Cody Forbes Award was named after a former Supreme Achiever with Cystic Fibrosis who died shortly after his 16th birthday.

The Asthma Foundation is very grateful to the panel of four judges who selected the Supreme Achievers. They are: the convener, Dr Matire Harwood (former Asthma Foundation Board member, GP and researcher), Louise Te Hinepouri Jurlina, (Registered Nurse and Asthma Foundation Board member), Petera Wahanui, 2009 Māori COPD Supreme Achiever and Jason Wynyard, many times world chainsaw and wood chopping champion and 2009 Open Māori Supreme Achiever.

Please note that the judges agreed that Joshua and Harlems’ nominations both had so much merit that they have both won the Māori Asthma 5 to 12 Years category.

The citations from the judging panel are below.

Citations: this is what our judges said (some are edited for length)

Open Asthma (Adult)

Oringa Barach, 64, Whangarei.

Oringa has had asthma since childhood and remembers being treated with ephedrine and a hand-made aerosol. Today she keeps on top of her asthma with medication delivered by more practical daily inhalers. More importantly, Oringa and her whanau believe that her wellbeing is the result of a healthy attitude to asthma, never letting it stop her from enjoying work, sport and family.

Oringa aims high. She has worked as a nurse most of her adult life, many years in high pressured environments, and is currently a clinical nurse specialist in diabetes. On top of this, she trains and competes in multi-sport events, the high point being in 2007 when she qualified for and competed at the World Ironman Champs in Kona, Hawaii, in the 60 to 64 age group. The long list of events in which she has competed impressed the judges and they had no hesitation in awarding her the Supreme Achievers Award in this category.

Open Asthma 5 to 12 Years

Nathan Brown, 11, Henderson, Auckland.

An incredible young man, Nathan told his mum “Asthma doesn’t stop you from doing anything Mum!” Clearly he lives by this motto. Despite having asthma and severe food allergies including anaphylaxis, Nathan lives life to the fullest.

An excellent student, Nathan competes in school netball and cross country, is a member of the choir, learns guitar, is student council member and class leader, buddies the younger children and has achieved distinction in the Australian Maths Exam (top four percent in New Zealand) three times. He’s recently had to forego some extracurricular activities to focus on diving, a sport in which he is ranked top for his age in New Zealand!

The judges were particularly impressed with his commitment to asthma management. Nathan works with his GP, hospital staff and family, taking great care and responsibility with his management plan of twice daily preventers and ventolin as required. An outstanding young man, Nathan is a deserving recipient.

Open Asthma 13 to 18 Years

Mathew Myers, 16, Arkles Bay, Auckland.

Mathew’s asthma was not diagnosed until he was seven years old. Until then he battled recurrent chest infections and breathlessness, made worse by cold temperatures and pollens. Mathew started swimming when his doctor suggested that it was the best sports option. But the pool chemicals and cold temperatures outside would still trigger exacerbations. Mathew’s performance was erratic and coaches would become frustrated with him. After one particularly bad asthma episode, Mathew’s mum took him to see a respiratory specialist. Things fell into place. The doctor increased his preventer dose, provided an action plan and referred Mathew to learn breathing techniques. He has never looked back, winning gold, silver and bronze medals at national age group swimming meets and being selected to train at the Millennium Institute of Sport and Health. His coaches describe him as an exceptional swimmer with potential to represent New Zealand in the future. Mathew says he just loves being in the water!

Open COPD

George Anderson, 76, Napier.

In 2008, George completed a pulmonary rehabilitation group course before joining the COPD support group in the Hawke’s Bay. These two seemingly minor events have had significant impacts on his wellbeing and on the lives of other members in the group.

George says the COPD support group has taught him to understand the benefits of exercise for his respiratory health. And so he attends the gym five times a week, and goes out of his way to provide transport for others to attend.

George has had recent eye surgery and is due to have a hip replacement. Yet that hasn’t stopped him from his commitments – to being physically active and as mentor and motivational speaker at the group. The person nominating George, describing herself as an “admirer”, says, “we would be lost without him”. The judging panel agreed.

Māori Asthma 5 to 12 Years (two winners in this category)

Joshua Nicholls (Ngāti Kahungunu), 12, Westport.

Joshua has had asthma and skin allergies since infancy. School life has been interrupted with many hospital admissions with asthma. Until recently he allowed his mother to monitor and manage the asthma. But this changed 18 months ago when Joshua decided to take control himself. He now manages the asthma with regular medication that he takes without reminders. He also enrolled himself in a swimming club which has improved his fitness and lung capacity. As a result his self confidence has developed and he now takes a lead role in most school activities, and is considered a role model and mentor for younger asthmatics. When his mother was unwell with asthma this year, Joshua assumed extra responsibilities at home, even calling the ambulance when required. Joshua is an exceptional young man taking an active role in his asthma management, his story highlighting the positive impacts of his decision.

Māori Asthma 5 to 12 Years

Harlem Morrell-Wilson (Tainui), 10, Hastings.

Harlem has spent a lot of time in and out of hospital as a result of severe asthma and numerous other life threatening medical conditions. But these have never stopped him from participating in school life. He plays hockey, t-ball, touch rugby and ripper rugby; races cross country; and enjoys all the physical challenges that come with school camping trips. Despite all obstacles, Harlem never complains. He monitors and manages his asthma and allergies and works extremely hard with all aspects of schooling. And whilst he may miss considerable periods of schooling when receiving surgery or treatment, he keeps up with his peers academically. Harlem’s Principal describes him as a fantastic role model to others and a wonderful boy deserving of the “big pat on the back” that this award will provide.

Māori COPD

Nita Rouse (Ngāpuhi), 68, Napier.

When initially diagnosed with COPD, Nita struggled for breath. But she wanted to “take charge” of the management of COPD in order to live life to the full. Smoke-free for over 10 years, Nita also took steps to understand the management of exacerbations – how to prevent them and how to treat them with the right medications.

Working at The Warehouse during the day, Nita is also an active member of the Māori Wardens and often fills the night shift duties at her work. She welcomed the Canadian, French and Japanese rugby teams during their visits to Hawke’s Bay during the Rugby World Cup tournament with her warm smile and beautiful generosity. Nita is a wonderful example of someone taking control of COPD so that it doesn’t control her. One judge described her as a “super achiever” and therefore well deserving of this award.

Respiratory Conditions

Des Vincent-Dustow, 35, Wellington.

Des was born football mad. He was also born with Cystic Fibrosis. But this hasn’t stopped him from enjoying life and the sport he loves. Des played football as a child and into young adulthood. But as his illness progressed, he couldn’t continue playing. He sought an alternative outlet for his passion and moved to coaching.

Des has made a significant contribution to junior and girls’ soccer in New Zealand as volunteer coach, mentor and spokesperson. As well as the 20 hours per week he puts in at training sessions, he works tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure better facilities, to support funding and development opportunities and run tournaments. As a result, some of his “flock” will represent New Zealand on the world stage in future years – something Des should be extremely proud of. The judges were impressed with the many letters of support attached to his nomination describing his humility, compassion, leadership and the outstanding contribution he makes to our community.

Cody Forbes Award

All nominees are automatically eligible for the Cody Forbes Award, which is named after a wonderful boy from Turangi who had Cystic Fibrosis. Cody was a Supreme Achiever in 2005, and passed away on 31 May 2007, shortly after his 16th birthday.

Vaughan Somerville, 18, Epsom, Auckland.

Vaughan has been in and out of hospital with Cystic Fibrosis since six weeks old. His management plan includes daily physiotherapy and nebulisers yet there are times when the condition can cause him to be so breathless that he struggles with simple tasks like walking a few steps.

Last year Vaughan received the Ian Mackinlay prize at Auckland Grammar school for personal excellence in every field of endeavour. He represented the school in football, cricket and water polo; was in the school debating team, concert band and School Chronicle committee; and worked as Twinkle Child Foundation project manager and Cystic Fibrosis Ambassador. The award also acknowledged his integrity and commitment in tackling challenges.

Currently at Auckland University studying Biomedicine, Vaughan hopes to achieve a lifelong goal of specialising in sports medicine. The judges felt that Vaughan was an exceptional role model, outstanding young man and perfect recipient for this special award.

ENDS

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