Nikau Parker and her mother Noa Vodnizky have been to Turkey and back to get the help they need. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Nikau standing tall again


After being told by New Zealand doctors that spinal fusion was her daughter’s best and only option, Noa Vodnizky took to researching everything and anything she could to find an alternative.

At just ten-years-old, Nikau Parker was diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis – her spine was starting to bend in an ‘S’ shape.

Now aged 13, Nikau has recently returned from Turkey where she had a successful surgery to correct the bends in her spine.

After seeking help in New Zealand, they were told by an Auckland-based specialist that spinal fusion was her best option.

In this operation, Nikau would’ve had two rods fused to her spine, restricting movement for her entire life.

Nikau is an avid sport lover so Noa knew this was not an option.

The surgery she just received in Turkey – Verterbral Body Tethering – works like braces on teeth and has reduced the angles in her spine from 46-55 degrees to under 20.

With further growth spurts itcould completely correct the curve. Noa wants to encourage others to question things and do their research.

“So many other families just trust what they are told, and I understand that, and it’s really hard for someone to go against the doctors but I would really like to encourage others to trust, with the help of the community, that they do have power.”

“If it doesn’t feel right just keep asking and keep asking. It scares me to think of how many people get treatment that is not the best.”

The pair say they have recently seen photos of a girl who had the fusion and cannot even sit a week after surgery.

“A week after my surgery I was already out of the hospital and we went to a huge shopping mall in Turkey.”

Nikau says before the operation she was constantly in pain and even though she is still sore now it’s nothing like it was.

“The muscle tension around my spine’s not completely gone but it’s so much better. Yeah, it’s way better.”

While Nikau missed playing the end of the netball season, she was back on the sidelines supporting her team as soon as she arrived back in New Zealand. She hopes to be able to join her rugby and rippa touch teams at the end of the year.

For now, she must let her body rest by not bending and twisting.

Noa says the doctor who performed the operation says it was such a successful surgery that she may not even have to do ongoing physical therapy.

There is a possibility that the tether could break in the following years, but by then the body should’ve adjusted to its new, normal shape.

The family, who managed to raise more than $70,000 in just a month, want to thank the community for all their love and support.

They would like to continue fundraising to help others who need the surgery, but for now are catching their breath after an exhausting couple of months.