Tuesday, 10 June 2008

When pain is good...

New beginning: Courtney Ellerbeck will undergo a further operation to her hips and ankles, after she became the youngest victim of crime while she was still in her mother's womb. Photo: Steve Lawrence, Mercury News

Gill Gifford

June 10 2008 at 08:42AM

Unlike most mothers who dread the discomfort that surgery causes their children, Lesley Ellerbeck will today (on Tuesday) look - with hope - for signs that her daughter is in pain.

Paraplegic Courtney Ellerbeck, 8, South Africa's youngest crime victim, who was paralysed by a bullet two months before she was due to be born, was today due to undergo an operation to repair the hip problems she has suffered throughout her life.

Courtney was shot in a botched hijacking in which two men attacked her pregnant mother on March 30, 2000.

A single gunshot was fired during the incident, with the bullet tearing through Lesley's abdomen and injuring her unborn baby.

Courtney, born a short while later by emergency caesarean section, has been a paraplegic since birth.

She did not grow like other children, took a long time to learn to sit and then it became apparent that she would never walk.

Last year, she underwent major spinal surgery to straighten her badly curved back. This year, after a year-long delay to allow her to catch up with her peers, she started Grade 1 at Muriel Brand School.

Courtney makes her way around either in a wheelchair or by manoeuvring herself along the ground.

Since her back operation, Courtney has been battling with her balance and often topples over in the bath.

At her recent check-up it was determined that she had an unstable hip joint, and some of her ankle ligaments were shortened and pulled her ankles out of line.

It was later decided that she needed to undergo hip surgery and other corrective procedures to straighten her withered legs.

"I'm not scared. I'm going to walk with crutches," Courtney said on Monday.

"Courtney was fine after her back op because she had no feeling, and she thinks it will be like that again.

But if she does feel something this time when they work on the ligaments, it will be a good sign," Lesley said.

This article was originally published on page 3 of The Star on June 10, 2008


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