To Russia with love

Donna Agnew with partner Che Brown and baby Quinn.

Donna Agnew is a counsellor. But she still must dig deep to rationalise just how it is she can cope with the autoimmune disease she has.

“Being a trained counsellor does not mean that I am not experiencing all the normal emotions such as grief, anxiety, and fear, but I do have a high level of awareness of my own well being, and I know what I can do to take care of myself,” she told the Times.

“Since I have been faced with this illness and feeling so unwell at the start of this year, I found myself thinking a lot about some of the young people I have worked with who have encountered huge challenges, and I have drawn on their strength and thought if they can get through that at such a young age, then I can be brave and do this.”

Born and raised in Howick, the 37-year-old has made the tough call to head to Russia for treatment to see a doctor of haematology who specialises in HSCT (Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation) for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases.

MS affects the brain, spinal cord and central nervous system. It causes the immune system to attack the myelin which wraps around nerve fibres to protect them. Without this outer shell, nerves become damaged which in turn prevents the brain from sending signals through the body correctly. The longer MS is left without treatment, the more damage that is caused.

A counsellor at Howick College, the biggest concern for Donna right now is that she will be gone for five weeks.

“My biggest worry is leaving Quinn, he is just 10-months-old.  I worry about how he will cope and feel when he realises his mummy is not there, the thought of that brings me to tears,” she told the Times.

“I really believe in Dr Federenko (her specialist), and that HSCT can halt Multiple Sclerosis…if I didn’t truly believe in that I would not be going through all of this.

“I have met many New Zealanders whose lives have been transformed after HSCT. I can’t understand how we can deny this treatment to New Zealanders.

“I understand HSCT is not for everyone, but I would like to be in a position where I have some options and input into decisions that affect my health.”

Donna and a very tight network have raised tens of thousands of dollars to get her to Russia, and there is one final fundraiser this weekend.

“I think I was really unlucky to get Multiple Sclerosis, but I know that I am incredibly lucky to be a part of a community that has rallied around me and enabled me to get to Russia and receive this stem cell transplant,” says.

“I am beyond humbled and grateful for all the amazing people who have helped me on this journey.

“I am feeling hopeful and excited about my future, I can’t wait till October when I am back home with my family, and on the path to recovery.”

At this stage her main symptoms are headaches but her sense of urgency for seeking treatment in Europe is that the disease is unpredictable.

“It depends where lesions form as to the disability attached, hence I am getting to Russia as soon as possible before the disease progresses.”


Donna’s final fundraiser

Join us for a thrilling night of entertainment and one last chance to farewell the lovely Donna Agnew before she heads off to Russia for life-changing treatment.

We’ve got a celebrity line-up of performers including comedian, Wilson Dixon, known for his dead-pan style of killer one-liners and great musical comedy, as well as the talented songwriter, singer and acoustic guitarist, David Shanhun.

The best part is, that while you’re enjoying a fabulous night out, you’ll also be helping Donna Agnew in her fight to beat Multiple Sclerosis. This is Donna’s final fundraiser and proceeds will go towards her treatment in Russia where she will receive a life-changing stem cell transplant, not available in New Zealand.

Plus our special guest auctioneer will continue to keep things lively as he auctions off some fabulous items donated by our sponsors, with one big ticket item you won’t want to miss out on! Also we have some amazing auctions with $1 reserve including restaurant vouchers, a brand new HP laptop, Caci clinic treatments, Augustine clothing and more.

Then as the night sparkles on DJ Warren Day will play some iconic tunes to help you dance the night away.

And in true Russian spirit, club prices will be available on the bar so you’ll be able to afford those Vodka Martinis.

Saturday, August 19; 7pm–11:30pm, Howick Club, Botany Road

  • Tickets only $25pp
  • Light finger food provided during the night
  • Full cash bar available with club prices
  • Live auction and raffles
  • Final fundraiser, everyone welcome
  • Dress Code is smart casual. But if you feel like getting ‘glammed up’ or ‘suited up’ please do so.

Hurry tickets available online only and with this stellar line-up and price they won’t last long. So book in your babysitter, gather your friends and family. This is a night not to be missed as we take you to Russia with love!

For more information or to donate directly visit

Please contact Melissa Grantham with any questions regarding the event. Email or phone 021 632 331.