Dedicated to a cure: David Pretorius is on a quest for a cure to spinal cord injuries video

Jay Boreham/STUFF.CO.NZ

David Pretorius won't stop till a cure is found for his daughter Holly's spinal injury.

When David Pretorius crossed the line in last year's New York Marathon he realised there will be no finish for him until he sees his daughter Holly walk again.

The stockbroker from Dairy Flat, north Auckland, ran to raise money for the The CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Research Trust and will lead a team of seven again at this year's New York Marathon on November 6 in the hopes of raising more funds so doctors and scientists can continue work which one day will cure his daughters paralysis.

Holly, 13, was paralysed from the waist down in a car accident on East Coast Rd in Redvale on March 12, 2010, when she was six.

Holly Pretorius with dad David and her horse Myra.
JAY BOREHAM / FAIRFAX NZ

Holly Pretorius with dad David and her horse Myra.

The day is etched into the minds of David and his family.

READ MORE:  Royal Zara Phillips praises Kiwi research into spinal injuries

Holly, her sister Alexandra and brother Adam were returning home from school with their grandmother when the accident happened.

Holly's injuries have never got her down and she enjoys most activities that able bodied people do.
Supplied

Holly's injuries have never got her down and she enjoys most activities that able bodied people do.

Four-year-old Adam died and Holly received critical injuries.

"The seatbelt almost cut her in half," David says.

Holly was placed in an induced coma for six days, needed metal plates inserted into her neck and brain surgery to reduce swelling to survive.

Daid Pretorius in the 2015 New York Marathon

Daid Pretorius in the 2015 New York Marathon

"I still wonder how my wife Natasha and I got through those early days - they are now a fog of pain, stress and the ultimate heartache. The agony of losing Adam will never go away.

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"I stumbled around for months afterwards, trying to find something with which to distract myself. That distraction has come in the form of the quest for the cure for spinal cord injury. 

"I have dedicated my life to the cure."

Three years ago David met CatWalk trust founder Catriona Williams who shares his dream of finding a cure.

Catriona, formerly one of New Zealand's leading international equestrian riders, was confined to a wheelchair following a riding accident in 2002.

Spinal cord injuries from a shattering fall left Catriona a C6/C7 tetraplegic.

Friends rallied to fund raise for her in her time of need, but Catriona's dream was for a cure.

So CatWalk was born to support researchers in  a realistic bid for a cure for SCI and has helped fund the Centre for Brain Research's Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility at the University of Auckland since 2011.

Around 130 to180 people a year are diagnosed with an SCI, according to ACC.

The country's researchers and facilities are contributing to a global and growing body of scientific evidence that shows a cure for SCI will be found.

However, there is no strategic investment programme for research, which remains underfunded compared to other major health conditions.

"The scientific evidence is mounting every day – through further research, we can achieve a reduction in permanent paralysis to Kiwis in the future, and an improved quality of life and independence for those living with a SCI today." Catriona says.

The downstream benefits of SCI research go beyond the impacts on SCI patients, contributing to benefits for other central nervous system conditions like strokes, multiple sclerosis and dementia, she says.

Holly remembers little from the accident, having blacked out on impact.

Her young age at the time and a dedicated family means being in a wheelchair seems not to have affected her life much.

"I can still do most things that able bodied people can, obviously not walking, but activities like horse riding," she says.

The first thing she would do if she could walk again would be to try out for a movie, Holly says.

But the aspiring actor still plans to try out for films or broadway, or be a business woman.

With medical advances snow balling David hopes a cure will be found in Holly's lifetime.

"But I think we have to be be realistic and be patient.

"There is a dedicated effort going on around the world to cure this, but it is extremely complex and takes an awful lot of time and effort, " he says.

Not being a scientist or doctor David, who is now deputy chairman of CatWalk, says all he can do is help raise funds so work for a cure can continue.

CatWalks efforts at last year's New York Marathon raised over $125,000, and this year his team hopes to raise $30,000 more.

Go to CatWalk to donate or learn more about others in the CatWalk team such as Olympic rower Rebecca Scown.

 - Stuff

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