Kayla White – winner of the Cody Forbes Award for Courage


The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation New Zealand held their 2023 Respiratory Achievers Awards last week and Year 9 student Kayla White was awarded the ‘Cody Forbes Award for Courage’ for the way she has defied the odds and her doctors’ predictions, by surviving a serious lung condition and living an active, full life on 70% lung capacity.

Thirteen year old Kayla White has battled through numerous conditions, medical appointments and surgeries since being born in a critical condition with hydrops fetalis, a condition that means fluid in her chest cavity restricted the growth of her lungs. Her family were told that she was unlikely to live as long as she has. And yet, despite living with a range of respiratory conditions including asthma, emphysema, fibrosis and chronic lung disease, Kayla remains strong, positive, courageous and physically active, being involved in a number of clubs, groups and teams within and outside of school.

Image by: Supplied

During her time at Broadgreen Intermediate, Kayla was in two cheerleading teams, played competitive soccer, swum and was involved in the school kapa haka and choir. She has also been very involved with Girl Guides and is now a ranger. Since joining Nayland College at the start of the year, Kayla has signed up for soccer and choir, and she’s hoping to join the debating team. 

Last year, her teacher, marching coach, girl guide leader and family friends all nominated her for a Respiratory Achievers Award through The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation New Zealand. Her nominators described her as a massive inspiration: “She lives life to the full and is not afraid to try new things. She is a mentor, role model and inspiration to others.”‘

Kayla was completely surprised when she heard that she was one of three finalists nationwide for the Cody Forbes Award for Courage. “I was surprised because I had never heard of it before and it normally means something bad when your Mum tells you to sit down when you walk in the door from school!” she laughed.

Flying up to the awards ceremony last Thursday was extra special for Kayla because it was also her 13th birthday and the first time she had been back to Wellington since being born there. While Kayla and her Mum were only in Wellington for two days, they managed to visit Te Papa Museum and the NICU ward of the Wellington Hospital where two nurses still remembered Kayla and her Mum.

Kayla White – in the Wellington Hospital NICU and today, defying the odds and her Doctor’s predictions. — Image by: Supplied

As well as the obvious joy in being announced as winner of the Cody Forbes Award for Courage, Kayla had other reasons why it was really significant for her to be able to attend the awards. 

“I got to meet new people with stories like mine and I felt connected with the people who were around me,” she said.

NZ Respiratory Achievers Awards 2023 – Kayla White (Year 9) pictured far left — Image by: Supplied

For Kayla, one of the biggest things that drives her is a desire to inspire others. “I basically just want to let other younger people than me know that you can do whatever you want, even with these conditions,” said Kayla.

And she truly is an inspiration as she continues to push herself to give anything a go, to not let her condition stop her from trying anything she puts her mind to. 

We’re proud of you Kayla and we’re cheering you on in all your sporting, academic and cultural endeavours!


By Sarah Luton