Rāpaki to Bluff: A life-changing ride for Nuk Korako and Renee

Former National list MP for the Port Hills, Nuk Korako, is biking 720km from Rāpaki to Bluff to...
Former National list MP for the Port Hills, Nuk Korako, is biking 720km from Rāpaki to Bluff to fundraise for 26-year-old Renee Veal’s life-changing surgery. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Former National list MP for the Port Hills Nuk Korako is biking 720km from Rāpaki to Bluff to fundraise for Renee Veal’s life-changing surgery.

“It’s not a race, rather it’s an opportunity to support a local woman who has a great future ahead of her, get life-changing surgery,” said Korako.

Veal, who grew up in Rāpaki, needs a total jaw reconstruction and jaw joint replacement operation.

For the past 10 years, she has struggled to sleep and eat properly. She often experiences migraines.

Veal has significant widespread musculoskeletal pain due to an underlying hypermobility syndrome.

This makes her joints hyperflexible, causing soft tissue injuries, bone wear, joint tear and early arthritis.

The most disabling area of pain is her jaw, which often dislocates. This is known as hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

“Imagine having a bad toothache that you can’t get rid of,” Korako said.

The specialised jaw surgery costs approximately $90,000.

Replacing Veal’s jaw will ease her chronic daily pain and greatly improve her life.

The public health system is not able to fund Veal’s procedure.

Nuk Korako and his electric bike. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Nuk Korako and his electric bike. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Veal said Korako’s fundraising efforts mean “everything” to her.

“It’s literally life-changing for me,” she said.

Korako said Rāpaki is a Ngāi Tahu ancestral community, which Veal was brought up in.

“Every child is looked after, not just by their parents but by the community as a whole. Rāpaki is their safe haven,” he said.

After hearing about Veal’s need for the specialised and high-cost surgery, Korako began to brainstorm how he could help, settling on the bike ride.

Korako will start his ride on October 9, aiming to travel approximately 80km each day for nine days, passing through several Ngāi Tahu rūnanga.

He will be riding an electric bike, sticking to level two out of five for electrical assistance, which Korako said is “not bad for a Gold Card holder”.

“I hope there will be a strong north-westerly to blow me down.”

His wife Christine will be supporting him along the way.

Korako has been training for four months, using his Port Hills backyard, biking from Rāpaki to Gebbies Pass, Halswell, into the city, through to Sumner and then over Evans Pass back home.

He has already raised more than $6000 of his $50,000 goal.

Veal was originally sceptical about starting a Givealittle page, believing her pain was something she could live with, compared to people needing money to save their lives.

“I am extremely grateful for everyone who has donated and offered words of encouragement,” she said.

“I’ve been blown away by the support of friends, family and strangers. This all means so much to me.”

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