Young violence victim needs cash for US surgery

Six-year-old Destiny can't walk without a frame because of domestic violence meted out to her birth mother and now she needs a costly spinal operation in the United States.

Her birth father was sentenced to jail, says the Auckland girl's adopted mother, Marlene, who asked that their surname not be published.

Destiny has cerebral palsy, the source of her disabilities. Marlene is not sure if this came from harm inflicted while Destiny was in her mother's uterus, or from her premature birth resulting from the violence.

Marlene has eight children at present: Destiny and an adopted boy aged 12, two children aged 19 and 23 to whom she gave birth, and four foster children aged under 6, including an 8-week-old baby.

Marlene fostered Destiny as a baby and adopted her at age 2.

"She wasn't expected to live past 1 and they said she will probably never walk or talk."

In that first year Destiny's breathing stopped 29 times. She suffered viral meningitis, pneumonia and a collapsed lung.

"For someone never supposed to walk or talk, she has just proved them all wrong."

While Marlene speaks to the Herald, Destiny bounces - on her knees - on the family's new trampoline. Destiny explains it is her favourite thing to do, and that they got it for Christmas. She squeals with delight when Nui, 12, bounces her.

Marlene says Destiny's intellect appears unharmed by her birth or pregnancy injuries. She attends a mainstream school with a teacher-aide and her reading and maths are age-appropriate, although her writing is troubled by a shaky hand.

What she really needs is spinal surgery to sever some nerves that are causing muscle rigidity and preventing her from walking independently because her legs cannot fully straighten. The operation is called selective dorsal rhizotomy.

Marlene says no one does this surgery in New Zealand but Destiny has been accepted for treatment on April 23 at St Louis Children's Hospital in the US. The surgeon is confident Destiny will be able to walk independently within 18 months of surgery.

The cost of the surgery plus accommodation and flights for mother and daughter is $100,000. So far, $90,631 has been raised. When they come home, they will start on raising the additional $25,000 needed for 18 months of physiotherapy.

"She's a real battler," Marlene says.

* To help with Destiny's operation, see

- By Martin Johnston of the New Zealand Herald

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