Vaughan Somerville spent large chunks of his childhood and youth in Starship being treated for the complications of cystic fibrosis.

The children's hospital was a big part of his life and he remains in contact with some of the staff who looked after him.

Now a 23-year-old PhD student in health science at Auckland University, Vaughan was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF), an inherited genetic disorder, at just 10 weeks old. The first of his more than 40 admissions to Starship occurred when he was 3 months old; his last stay was just before his 18th birthday.

Vaughan Somerville, when he was 12, with Starship supporter Lucy Lawless. Photo / Supplied
Vaughan Somerville, when he was 12, with Starship supporter Lucy Lawless. Photo / Supplied

He was in hospital for two birthdays, one Christmas, one New Year, he sat exams there and he missed school trips there.


"I was in there for normally for a minimum of two weeks. I had one admission where I was in there for three weeks, out for two days, then back in for another three weeks."

His hospital admissions were for intravenous antibiotics and he had increased physiotherapy and gym sessions.

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Vaughan says his health is now pretty good, but it can fluctuate.

"I had a year since Starship where I had no admissions, whereas the past 12 to 18 months I have been a little bit more prone to infections and exacerbations than I used to. I have been hospitalised twice already this year."

Vaughan recognises that with CF you sometimes have to "get some R and R and put your life on the back burner", but he also strives not to let the condition hold him back.

"I kind of use it more as a motivation ... I have been pretty lucky not only with Starship but also with my family pushing me towards being the best person I can be irrespective of my CF, ignoring that as a fact and trying to chase life 110 per cent."

Hospital treatment can be scary, but Vaughan found in dealing with this that "Starship is quite incredible.

"It takes the hospital system from being not just a black-and-white, patient-caring system but looking at someone beyond what they are in there for and put a smile on their face, which can almost be the best part of your day."

What is cystic fibrosis?

• Inherited genetic disorder

• NZ incidence: 1 in 3000 live births

• Causes thick mucus which can block airways and lead to lung infections

• Can also cause problems with the pancreas and digestion

• No cure

• Treatments can include chest physiotherapy, a high-energy, high-protein diet,
enzyme-replacement therapy, antibiotics, lung transplant