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Winners of Asthma Foundation Achievers' Awards celebrate

Winners celebrate success from Whangarei, Dargaville, Auckland, Gisborne, Wellington and Ashburton

The challenges of living with asthma and other respiratory conditions will come into sharp focus at the Asthma Foundation Achievers' Awards ceremony hosted by the Governor General at Government House. Six outstanding achievers, from a 10-year-old girl, a marathon- running 76-year-old, to a young woman who has set up a Foundation to support those with bronchiectasis, will be honoured at the dinner in front of 120 guests on the 13th March.

The Achievers' Awards acknowledge and celebrate New Zealanders with respiratory conditions who achieve great successes in their lives despite the challenges their conditions bring.

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

That's the powerful message that comes through loud and clear when you look at the inspiring New Zealanders who have been selected for these awards. They are:
• A young girl from Gisborne who has had many hospital stays but still represents her school at waka ama, ripper rugby and athletics
• An Ashburton, young award winning musician who uses his passion for music and singing to build up his lungs and control his asthma.
• A 76-year-old mum from Auckland who has chalked up nine marathons and 100 half marathons to stay fit since her 47 year old sister died of an asthma attack.
• A Dargaville woman who wanted to make a difference by producing a resource book for those with COPD, even though she has only 30% normal lung function.
• A Wellington community-minded young woman who has to make every day count.
• A Northland high achiever who wants to leave a legacy of hope for those with bronchiectasis in New Zealand.

The six Achievers' Awards winners, from Whangarei, Dargaville, Auckland, Gisborne, Wellington and Ashburton, are:
• Asthma 5-12 Category, Tomairangi Pihema–Brown, Gisborne
• Asthma 13-18 Category, Liam Kennedy-Clark, Ashburton
• Asthma Adult Category, Jo Turner, Auckland
• COPD Category, Carol Cooper-Taylor, Dargaville
• Other Respiratory Condition, Nicole Doriguzzi, Wellington
• Cody Forbes Award for Courage, Esther Jordan Muriwai, Whangarei

Tomairangi Pihema-Brown, Asthma 5-12 Category, Gisborne
Tomairangi is a brave, strong and resilient 10-year-old girl. She is a regular in the Children's Ward at Gisborne Hospital, spending seven days in hospital in January alone. She has an active input into her asthma plan and adheres to it as necessary. She plays netball, loves music and has represented her school at waka ama, ripper rugby and athletics - she never uses her asthma as an excuse to not give something a go. Tomairangi faces challenges head on, is able to identify trouble spots and has developed strategies to overcome them. Her resilience, active management of her condition and quiet determination to get on with life despite the challenges of her condition make her a deserving winner of this award.

Liam Kennedy-Clark, Asthma 13-18 Category, Ashburton
'A brave go getter' was the description of the judges. Liam has struggled with his health from the very start but has gone on to pursue his passion - singing. In 2013 Liam won the NZ Gold Guitar Awards (intermediate age), he made it through to the top 24 of NZ X-Factor and was a solo performer in Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park. He was also named the Aristocrat Entertainer of the Year (Junior) at the Tamworth Country Music Festival – the largest in Australasia. Liam identified early on that he needed to 'build up' his lungs in order to help his asthma; he achieved this by learning to play the trumpet. He uses his preventer inhaler as prescribed and tries his best to avoid his many triggers. Watch out for this young man in the future; Liam appears to know what he wants and doesn't stop until he gets it. The challenges of having asthma will not hold him back from achieving his dreams.

Jo Turner, Asthma Adult Category, Auckland
Jo knows from personal experience that asthma can kill. She lost her sister Betty to asthma when she was only 47. In 1983 Jo joined the Auckland YMCA Marathon Club to help with her asthma; her good management meant she was able to participate in all events. Jo has run over 100 half marathons and nine marathons, including New York twice and London. Jo also cared for her late husband who had COPD. Being a full-time primary caregiver meant Jo couldn't afford to become ill so it was important to keep as healthy as possible. Jo keeps her asthma closely monitored with the help of her GP and continues to keep fit so she can still participate in these many half marathon events. The judges and her sons agree, we can all learn a thing or two from this fit 76-year-old!

Carol Cooper-Taylor, COPD Category, Dargaville
Enthusiastic and community minded, Carol has been the driving force behind the recently developed book 'Don't Forget to Breathe'. Carol's own experience with COPD started this project as she realised there wasn't a lot of information available for coping with COPD. Carol's COPD means she has only 30% normal lung capacity so at times even holding a conversation is difficult. Carol cajoled, persuaded and convinced a registered nurse and a physiotherapist to put two years of their time, and hers, into writing down their extensive respiratory knowledge. She is proud that the free book has been downloaded over 2,000 times in five months. Carol has also developed the website and facebook account for the book and has done this with no expectations for herself. Carol's ongoing commitment to completing the book is to be applauded; this resource will help those with COPD to better manage and understand their condition so they too can live as full a life as possible.

Nicole Doriguzzi, Other Respiratory Condition, Wellington
The Other Respiratory Conditions category is for people with respiratory conditions other than asthma and COPD.
Nicole stole the judges' hearts. Nicole was born with cystic fibrosis, which makes breathing and keeping weight on a challenge. From a young age she took control of organising her many, many medications. Nicole is incredibly athletic, taking her two dogs running for two hours each day as well as playing netball, soccer and biking. Nicole has gone out of her way to follow her passion and love of animals, and she lives her life to the fullest, as she knows that every day counts. She is a caring giving person who shares her free time willingly. As well as working part-time, Nicole volunteers as the secretary for Cystic Fibrosis Wellington and volunteers for the SPCA. She understands her condition and does everything within her power to stay fit and healthy. Nicole lets nothing stop her and she lives her life to the fullest despite the many challenges she faces every day.

Esther Jordan Muriwai, Cody Forbes Award for Courage, Whangarei
The Cody Forbes Award was named after a former Supreme Achiever with Cystic Fibrosis who died shortly after his 16th birthday.

Esther is a fabulous young woman who lives every moment to its fullest. She was diagnosed with bronchiectasis at the age of eight and has spent much of her life in hospital. In all her young years Esther has shown courage and tenacity in the face of a challenging respiratory condition. An example of this is when Esther completed her Bachelor of Māori studies. Due to her health she completed one paper at time, taking over five years. This is a testament to her will and inner strength to complete tasks she sets herself. When thinking about her purpose in life Esther decided on two goals: she wanted to revitalise te reo and she wanted it to be different for others with bronchiectasis. In true Esther style she aimed high and worked hard to form the Bronchiectasis Foundation to provide education about this devastating condition. Dr Lance O'Sullivan, recent winner of the New Zealander of the Year title, is supporting the development of a draft constitution. Esther has also founded the Northland Bronchiectasis Support Group and mentors young people with the condition. Esther is a fluent te reo speaker who spoke from the heart about what it means to her to be Māori in the Miss Aotearoa New Zealand contest. Entering the competition was a courageous step for a shy girl from Northland. Esther was first runner-up. Esther has also translated a resource book into Māori for the Whangarei Children's Ward and wishes to do more of this in the future. Health willing, Esther has many plans and goals for the future. Esther says "you have to take what your challenge is and use the wisdom gained from it to get on with life"; this takes courage and is the definition of a true achiever.

About the Asthma Foundation
The Asthma Foundation is New Zealand's sector authority on asthma and other respiratory illnesses. We advocate to government and raise awareness of respiratory illnesses, fund research for better treatments and educate on best practice. We provide resources on our website and support our affiliated asthma societies and trusts in providing education, support and advice. For more information, visit the Asthma Foundation's website www.asthmafoundation.org.nz.

ENDS

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