Kate Harpur is a 19-year-old student, studying for a Bachelor of Teaching at the University of Waikato, doing her practicums, supervising out-of-school care and recreation (OSCAR) programmes, and being a devout fan of various sports.

But Kate cannot take part in those sports herself, as she was born with cerebral palsy resulting from medical misadventure.

It causes her to experience spasticity, which results in having to walk with a walking stick and a huge amount of effort.

Her only hope of being able to develop the physical ability necessary to play mainstream sports lies in life-changing surgery called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR).


She will need to have the surgery in the United States so that it can be performed as early in her life as possible, maximising the potential benefits.

The surgery involves cutting some of the sensory nerve fibres that come from the muscles and enter the spinal cord.

Cerebral palsy involves spasticity - extreme tightness in various muscles and difficulty consciously controlling them - so Kate will need to have the particular sensory nerves that cause a high level of spasticity cut.

This will decrease her spasticity and give her a profound increase in control over her body.

SDR is the only operation yet discovered to have these sorts of benefits for cerebral palsy patients.

Such advanced surgery does not come cheap.

Kate needs to raise $100,000 to be able to travel to the US, spend four weeks there for surgery and rehabilitation, and then return to New Zealand.

ACC will not pay for any of it, even though she receives help from the corporation in other areas, because funding such surgery is not in its policy.

It's a huge goal - but Kate is determined to be able to play sport and live the physical life of anyone her age.

"I was always promised when I was at primary school that I could get involved in netball - it never happened. Intermediate - never happened. High school - never happened. And it got to the point where I was just like, 'Next time someone says something, I'm not going to believe them,'" Kate said.

But her resolve to get better is unquenchable. Kate has been working hard all her life to develop new abilities and to maintain them.

"I've probably improved since I was born, considering I couldn't walk until I was three years old, but that's just through strengthening, muscle TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) and those sort of thing," she said.

"If I had it my way I'd have the surgery tomorrow, but I don't have that much money. The government will send you to Australia, but Australia only do it seven times a year."

This would mean Kate would be put on a waiting list, potentially for years, leading to her missing out on many potential benefits from having the surgery while she is younger and her body is still developing.

The surgeon in America who performs the SDR operation has now successfully administered it to 3472 cerebral palsy patients. It was their brightest hope, just as it is for Kate.

Fundraising event

* On March 25 at City Fitness Gym, 19 Home Straight, Te Rapa, Kate will be holding a fundraiser, for people to ride an exercise bike and generate $10 an hour for her life-changing surgery. Participants are not required to be a member of the gym. For more information, contact Kate on 027 841 6795, or Monique Van Dyk at City Fitness Gym Hamilton on 027 623 3352.

* You can also donate to Kate via her Givealittle page - https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/katesnewchanceofhope#