Cassidy Witbooi turns three tomorrow. But her birthday will not be a happy one because on October 11 last year, a car accident changed her life.
The toddler was knocked down by a speeding car driven by an unlicensed teenager outside her home in Claremont, Johannesburg.
Her family fears that her right leg may be amputated. She spent two months in hospital and since then she has already undergone 17 excruciating operations on her damaged right leg. The last operation was performed on January 8, and later this month she has an appointment for an observation with her doctor at Garden City Clinic.
Her mother, Althea Witbooi, feels her baby's pain. "She will never be an athlete or participate in any kind of sport she likes. This accident has turned our lives upside-down. It has caused a lot of financial strain because only my husband is working."
So far the family has spent R48000 to cover the initial operation. But the medical bills are still piling up. Each time she goes to hospital overnight, it costs them R6000.
To add insult to injury, last Wednesday the teen driver got a "slap on the wrist" when he was fined R2500 for reckless and negligent driving by the Johannesburg magistrate's court.
Witbooi, 27, is angry at the justice system. She feels the sentence was too lenient. "And we were just expected to accept it. This is so unfair." Apart from the pain, the accident has left little Cassidy traumatised. Her mother says she is scared of going out.
"The accident has traumatised her so much. She refuses to go outside and play. Whenever we are at home we have to stay indoors. The accident scene is just by our gate and every time she goes outside she shouts 'there is a car coming, there is a car coming'," Witbooi said.
Cassidy's grandparents are equally angry. Granny Jasmine Daniels says her granddaughter has been very strong throughout this ordeal. "She has a heart of a bear."
Back in October, the family had gathered at Cassidy's home to celebrate her grandfather's 50th birthday. Cassidy was walking to a park with her teenage cousins - aged 13 and 14 - and her five-year-old brother. As they crossed the road to get into the park, a car approached at high speed. At the wheel was the teenager. He hit Cassidy, leaving her bloodied and motionless.
A muscle from her back was removed and used to reconstruct her right foot.
Her left thigh was grafted to cover the injury because doctors feared it would be infected and cause more damage. "She cannot pick up anything heavy using her left hand because of the muscle that was removed from her back," Witbooi said.