Nick’s Starlight Wish marks a turning point in his life


Nick was a typical 13-year-old boy who loved surfing and rugby. What mum and dad Anne and Peter didn't know, was that there was a time bomb ticking inside him.

Three years ago some routine blood tests revealed something was wrong with Nick's liver. "The GP called us in, handed us the results and told us to go straight to Emergency"; says Anne. "For some unknown reason, Nick's body had attacked his own liver. At just 13 years of age, our boy had cirrhosis."

If that wasn't enough, Nick also had a secondary condition - his blood couldn't oxygenate properly.  “Overnight, we went from a family who rarely saw a doctor, to being caught up in a whirlwind of doctors, hospitals and tests," says Anne. "Nick was put on the waiting list for a liver transplant and we were on call 24/7.

By this stage Nick was turning blue each time he exerted himself. His beloved sport was out of the question. During one of their hospital visits Nick ended up in intensive care. His lung had collapsed and he was haemorrhaging. "My beautiful boy said to me, 'Mum, you said everything would be alright,'" says Anne. “It broke my heart.”

Amongst all the upheaval Anne was surprised to find the children’s hospital wasn’t a depressing place.

“It’s amazing to see smiles everywhere. There’s Captain Starlights goofing around the wards and the Starlight Express Room, a treatment and medical discussion free zone, lets teenagers like Nick escape and hang out,” says Anne. “Kids after all are kids, whether they’re sick or healthy.”

If Nick was too sick to go to the Starlight Express Room he could watch Starlight TV, which broadcast movies and encouraged everyone to play quizzes using their bedside phones.


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Nick's mum, Anne

Last year Nick finally received his new liver. His recovery was incredible. Then Nick was told he’d also be receiving a Starlight Wish.  On a stunning day last November; Nick went surfing with his hero - pro surfer Mick Fanning. "Mick was amazing," says Anne. "He spent over an hour in the surf with Nick, giving him tips, pushing Nick into waves, but also letting it rip."

Mick took them shopping at Rip Curl where Nick chose some clothes and a new wetsuit.  “I thought Nick’s face was going to break his smile was so huge,” says Anne. “Then Mick presented Nick with the surfboard he’d used to win his Portugal tour. It was signed by Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson. Nick couldn’t even speak, he was so overwhelmed.”

Nick surfing with Mick Fanning

Photo credit: Franck Gazzola

Nick’s Starlight Wish exceeded anything he’d hoped for. The family were on a high for weeks. It marked a real turning point in Nick’s life - he hasn’t looked back.

“It was like the last two and a half years of doctors, hospitals, disappointments, surgery, waiting for a donor, the transplant and Nick’s recovery all culminated on that day in the surf at Manly,” says Anne. “It was Nick’s day on his life’s podium.”

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