Gutsy young Katie Reed has been admitted to hospital 18 times in two years, often relying on respiratory support for up to a fortnight during each stay.
But the 10-year-old says she's feeling positive about the future and wants to use her illness to raise awareness and money for other sick children.
Kate has bronchiectasis, a disease reflected by a permanent enlargement of parts of the airways in the lung.
Her lungs can't beat bacteria that wouldn't cause problems for most people and she is very susceptible to infections, mum Lisa Reed says.
Katie was diagnosed after seven bouts of pneumonia in 15 months.
"When I first got sick it was quite hard because Mum had my two brothers to look after too," Katie says.
"We decided to get me a phone so I'd be able to stay at night by myself. I get a little lonely and a little scared, but it's OK. I'm feeling positive."
Lisa Reed says the illness is the same one young Northland woman Esther-Jordan Muriwai suffered from before she died earlier this year.
Katie and Muriwai formed a close friendship, leading to the formation of the Northland Bronchiectasis Support Group, managed by Lisa.
Katie has agreed to be the face of this year's Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal in the hope it might get more publicity for her illness and to honour her late friend.
"We're trying to get a [bronchiectasis] foundation off the ground," Lisa says. "When we've talked to nurses they've said there's more and more kids coming onto the ward who have been diagnosed."
Katie has so far done a photo shoot, talked to journalists and helped produce a radio advertisement.
She's also the guest of honour at the appeal's launch at Whangarei Hospital this week.
"It was a little scary but I thought it would help the support group so I decided to say yes, hopefully lots of money can be raised."
Surprisingly she's not put off hospitals - she hopes to one day be a doctor and can already explain how to administer an IV line.
"I feel like I have a head start, because I already know a lot about hospitals," she says.
- Whangarei Leader
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