It took nine months of fundraising and a trip across the world – but seven-year-old Damin Ching finally has both feet back on Nelson ground after his life-changing surgery.
The Nayland Primary student is back at school and running properly for the first time in his life.
Damin and his family returned from the five-week trip to the United States last month, where he had a rare operation called selective dorsal rhizotomy at the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri.
He was born with right side hemiplegia, a type of cerebral palsy which causes high muscle tone and lack of control in one side of the body. Running, swimming and even walking can be challenging.
The five-hour operation involved cutting the nerve fibres in the spine that the brain uses to stiffen the limbs.
It’s not funded in New Zealand, so Damin’s family had to raise the full $120,000 to get him the surgery.
According to Damin’s mum, Mikayla McDonald, it has been worth every penny.
“He’s now walking with both heels touching the ground, which he hasn’t been able to do most of his life. He just ran properly for the first time and has a lot more range of movement now,” she says.
“We have been waiting years and working hard to get to this moment.”
And with his continued physio sessions, which Damin must attend five days a week, things will only get better.
Damin’s surgery went “all to plan”, according to Mikayla – although the trip wasn’t without its tough moments.
“After the surgery, he had three days of lying flat on his back, so he got very bored. We had physio daily and some days we had tears.”
But Damin’s true Kiwi spirit shone through, and he broke several therapy records while over there.
“A previous Aussie kid did 40 leg push-ups, so he had to beat him and do 45,” says Mikayla.
Although there is still a long road ahead for Damin, she says it’s great to have made it to where they are now.
“We would like to thank everyone who has got behind us to make this happen. This has changed our family’s life. Damin gets to experience so much more now. We are very grateful.”