Nikau Parker, 13, loves to play sport, especially netball but a spinal issue means that only expensive surgery can save her dream. Photo: Supplied.

Nikau still standing tall


When Nikau Parker was born her parents knew that she would need to be strong and flexible, so they named her Nikau after the native palm tree.

“She has grown to be just that; beautiful, tall, strong and flexible just like her namesake,” says her mother, Noa.

But Nikau was just 10-years-old when Noa, a yoga instructor, noticed that her daughter’s pelvis was out of line. So she began to do exercises with her to help.

Eventually, she was referred for an X-ray and what they found was shocking.

“Her spine was beginning to form an S-shaped bend,” Noa says. “She was diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis. It was really scary for her because the doctor gave her so much information in that first visit.”

An X-Ray image of Nikau's spine. Photo: Supplied
An X-Ray image of Nikau’s spine. Photo: Supplied

Since then Nikau and her family have been on a constant roller coaster of trials, big efforts, small victories and a lot of frustration.

After researching all the options available to them, Noa and Nikau decided that Vertebral Body Tethering (VBT), which works a lot like braces on teeth, was her best option.

“We have a surgeon in Auckland and we have always hoped that he would perform the surgery.”

“But then a month ago he said it wouldn’t be done and I just broke down,” says Noa.

The alternative for Nikau was a spinal rod which Noa describes as “like a broomstick attached to your spine”.

“When we got that news, I just had to cry, and Nikau was so strong. ”

“She told me ‘Don’t worry mum, I’m going to be a really good netball player and I’m going to be a famous player even with the rod in my spine’.

“Imagine the range of motion that she couldn’t have. I just started thinking off all the things, like being able to lean down to kiss her child on the head one day, that she wouldn’t be able to do, and I thought ‘no, we have to try something else’.”

Noa found a surgeon in Istanbul, Turkey, who will perform the surgery at a cost of more than $70,000, but time is of the essence.

The surgery will instantly correct a lot of the spine and will then use Nikau’s growth as a lever to bring her spine back into alignment.

“Nikau is about to have her final growth spurt, we would be in Turkey now if we could.”

Noa says that she is hoping to have a date in July for the surgery, so they have set up a Givealittle page to help raise funds to pay for it.

“In one week we have raised $44,000, I thought it couldn’t be done but now I have so much hope. It’s so overwhelming to feel all this love coming to us from all over the world.”

She says there is still a chance that it will be too late for the surgery and spinal fusion with the rods being the only option, but they remain positive.

“We had a very generous donation from a woman who has the rods in her spine and she said she wants to prevent it happening to someone else. We know there’s still a chance and we will cross that bridge if we get to it.”

The family is planning a big party in August to celebrate the success of the surgery and fundraise for any extra funds that they will need to repay.

“We have a lot of amazing items to auction off, including aviation lessons and an All Blacks’ jersey donated by Owen Franks.”