Project works to bring paralysed girl home

Franciska Kleiin and her mother Louwtjie.

Little Franciska Klein’s life changed forever earlier this year after she was paralysed from the neck down.

The eight-year-old was rushed to Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital with head and neck injuries, after being hit by a car near her home on the Altydgedacht Farm, on Friday March 17.

Doctors feared she would be brain damaged and told her parents she might not live longer than two days, but “Ciska” showed what a fighter she was, surprising everyone.

There was no brain damage, but injuries to the child’s spinal cord had paralysed Ciska from the neck down. She is still in hospital and needs a ventilator to help her breathe.

Ciska is a Grade 2 pupil at Valley Primary School on Altydgedacht, and the school’s StoryBox project wants to make some improvements at the Kleins’ home for when Ciska is able to leave the hospital.

She was moved from the intensive care unit on Monday April 24, but her parents are insisting that she not be moved to an institution but be cared for at home.

Hospital staff visited the family’s home on Friday May 5 and have prepared a list of things that need to be done if Ciska is to be cared for there.

Western Cape Department of Health spokesman Darren Francis said hospital staff were doing everything possible to give Ciska and her family all the care and support they needed.

Ciska’s father, Marius, is a full-time farm worker and her mother, Louwtjie, is a seasonal worker. Ciska is the youngest of four sisters aged 9, 11 and 13. The family of six live in a two-bedroom house on the farm, with the sisters sharing a room.

Ms Klein describes her daughter as a happy, upbeat child, who is always in a good mood and ready for any challenge. Ms Klein is torn between her daughter in hospital and her three other children at home.

“It’s hard being away from my family. I worry about my daughters when I’m at hospital and worry about Ciska when I am at home,” she said.

The hospital team recommended that another room be built for Ciska.

It would need to be big enough for a hospital bed, recliner chair for the care-giver and space for the mobile life-support machines. Other needs include a ripple mattress, a wheelchair ramp, a hoist and long-term volunteers.

Ciska is expected to be discharged from hospital on Monday June 5, if all goes to plan. She will, however, not be returning to school this year as the risk of picking up a lung infection is too great.

The StoryBox project is made up of community volunteers helping farm children reach their full potential.

Project manager Twanette Acker said they wanted Ciska to live a happy life.

“We want to make things as comfortable as we can for her and to make it easier for her parents,” she said.

If you want to help, call Ms Acker on 083 444 4560.