This year’s Mark Ashford Scholarship was awarded to Damien Bell from Te Awamutu.
Damien is half way through his three year degree, studying towards a Bachelor of Applied Information Technology at WINTEC in Hamilton.
“It was a real honour to be chosen for this scholarship and to be recognised for the hard work and commitment I’ve been putting in over the last year and a half with my studies. I plan to use the money towards covering some of my fees. This will help ease the burden of my student loan allowing me to pursue some of my other life ambitions. A huge thanks to Tasman Insulation and CFNZ for providing this opportunity,” Damien says.
Cystic fibrosis has had a huge impact on 35-year-old Damien’s life. At his sickest, his lung function was just 13% and he relied on oxygen 24/7, BiPAP at night and continuous PEG feeding as he was too breathless to eat or talk.
In 2016, Damien received the life-changing gift of a lung transplant. Complications following his surgery meant a 10 week stay in hospital and a lengthy recovery period in Auckland, but after six months he was settled back at home and able to start focusing on his future. Damien is now back enjoying life with his wife and their two young girls.
“Returning to study is truly something I could never have dreamed of in those challenging and trying months post-transplant,” Damien says.
“I’ve got a second chance at life thanks to my generous donor and their family.”
Since his transplant, Damien has become more involved his local Waikato CF branch as their adult representative and is enjoying giving back and raising awareness of CF.
The Mark Ashford Scholarship is awarded each year to a person with CF who has shown excellence in their tertiary study and/or has shown tenacity to overcome the trials of CF while studying. The scholarship is based on previous academic results. Recipients are awarded $3,000.
The scholarship is generously funded by Tasman Insulation, manufacturers of Pink Batts, in memory of Mark Ashford. Mark had CF and passed away in 1996 after making a huge contribution to home health with his work on the Fletcher Group’s Health Homes book.