From left are Emily Greenhalgh, Kerry Ihaia, Riley Fechney, Damin Ching, Eleanor Cooper and Katelyn Ching at Friday’s mufti-day fundraiser at Nayland Primary School. Photo: Kate Russell.

Damin’s journey: $120k for US surgery


For six-year-old Damin Ching, a mufti day at his school was the perfect way to cap off a nine-month-long fundraising campaign to get him life-changing surgery overseas.

The Ching family has almost crossed the finish line, with only $1000 to go in the $120,000 they need to get Damin to the United States next month for a rare operation called selective dorsal rhizotomy.

Damin has right side hemiplegia, a type of cerebral palsy which causes him to have extremely high muscle tone and lack of control in the affected side of his body.

He was diagnosed with the condition when he was nine-months-old and things like running, swimming, riding a bike and even walking can leave him exhausted.

The operation, which involves cutting the nerve fibres in the spine that the brain uses to stiffen the limbs, is not funded in New Zealand.

Damin’s mother, Mikayla McDonald, says although it’s not a cure, it will vastly improve his mobility, speech and frustration levels.

“Basically the right side of his body can’t keep up with what his brain is telling him to do.”

She says it has been an “exhausting” nine months of fundraising, but they’ve been “absolutely blown away” by the generosity of Nelsonians.
Quiz nights, family fun days, movie nights, sausage sizzles, car washes, livestock sales, a Givealittle page and mufti days have all contributed to the cause.

“We’ve constantly been organising something. I couldn’t count how many hours each week we spent on it. We’ve really had to think outside the box.”

The family will travel to the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri on 26 June, with the five-hour long surgery scheduled for 5 July.

“Damin’s excited. We’ve been reading him books about the surgery so he knows what will happen,” says Mikayla. “The only thing he’s upset about is the fact that he can’t have his four-year-old sister Katelyn staying in his hospital room with him.”

Donations can still be made at Any leftover funds will go towards Damin’s rehabilitation.

“We just want to say thank you to everyone who has helped us get to this point,” Mikayla says.