Livestock sold as community helps little girl

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Can’t wait . . . Twins Jorja (left) and Charlee McLachlan are looking forward to the surgery that will rid Charlee of difficulties caused by cerebral palsy. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

A livestock sale to raise funds for North Otago preschooler Charlee McLachlan’s life-changing surgery has brought in nearly $40,000.

The sale, organised by the Oamaru branch of the New Zealand Stock and Station Agents Association, was held at the Waiareka saleyards on Monday.

Auctioneer John Cheesman, from Whitestone Livestock, said there was “a good crowd” bidding for about 100 cattle and 100 sheep donated by local farmers.

“The prices were more than competitive,” Mr Cheesman said. “People were very generous with their money.”

Some $38,000 was raised on the day and another $1500 was added the next day.

“Buyers were very, very supportive.”

He estimated the same yarding would have made perhaps $25,000 to $28,000 at a regular sale.

It had taken a lot of work for the stock agents to organise the sale but “it was worth it” to help the McLachlans so substantially, he said. “I thought the community did them proud.”

The family agrees wholeheartedly.

Charlee’s mother, Anna McLachlan, said the outcome was “pretty incredible.”

Attending the event, she found it “pretty nerve-racking” when the first cow went into the ring.

Charlee and her twin sister, Jorja, “really enjoyed seeing the animals,” Mrs McLachlan said. Although they live on a farm near Duntroon and are used to seeing livestock, the sight of rows of pens filled with cattle and sheep was new to them.

The sale proceeds, plus money raised from a scooter ride from Hinds to Invercargill last weekend, meant the family should soon be able to pay for Charlee’s surgery in the United States, Mrs McLachlan said. The payment had to be made in advance.

The operation is scheduled for April 11 at the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri.

The McLachlans will leave New Zealand and be away for five weeks.

Charlee’s procedure, selective dorsal rhizotomy, entails opening the lumbar area of her back, removing the spinal cord and electrically testing the sensory nerve fibres.

It is a permanent cure for the spasticity caused by the cerebral palsy that was diagnosed in 2014.

The left side of Charlee’s brain is affected, causing symptoms on the right side of her body. Her right leg is shorter and she struggles with tasks like climbing into bed, getting dressed, sitting on the floor or a seat, walking, running and riding a bike.

The expedition will cost $120,000 – $87,000 for the surgery and up to $33,000 for travel and accommodation.

Mrs McLachlan said the family was “physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted,” but overwhelmed by the generosity they had been shown.

“Once we started on this mission, I honestly didn’t think for a second we would get this sort of support. We’ve only been here for three years.

“It’s humbling, the support we’ve had. The friends we’ve made will be in our lives forever.”