Pippie in hospital for an op

18 December 2012 - 02:00 By KATHARINE CHILD
SAY CHEESE: Pippie's mother says she loves being photographed
SAY CHEESE: Pippie's mother says she loves being photographed

ISABELLA "Pippie" Kruger is back in hospital today but for a minor procedure to loosen scar tissue on her arm that is affecting her movement.

She is expected to spend only one night in hospital, according to her plastic surgeon, Dr Ridwan Mia.

The three-and-a-half-year-old made headlines earlier this year when she became the first South African to receive skin grown in a laboratory for her burn wounds.

She suffered 80% burns to her body in a freak accident on New Year's Eve when fire-lighting gel exploded in her father's hands.

Her mother, Anice Kruger, said the family would not be celebrating New Year's Eve this year.

A year after the disfiguring tragedy, Pippie's blonde hair has grown back and she smiles frequently, a far cry from the bandaged hospital patient of six months ago.

Mia said the operation tonight was a "simple" procedure to release skin on her arm that has formed a contracture which happens when soft, flexible tissue or skin is replaced by hard, inelastic tissue that restricts movement.

"Due to the contracture, she is unable to extend her shoulder more than 90%. When she forces her arm [to stretch], an ulcer is formed."

The operation, expected to take an hour or two, will give her a full range of movement back.

For the past six months, Pippie has had extensive rehabilitation treatment in Johannesburg and is making progress.

Pippie cannot walk or talk but is becoming more responsive and is able to open her clenched fists.

In a therapy session on Friday, after much prompting, she made a sound to call a therapist hiding behind the wall with a teddy bear.

An MRI performed on Pippie a few months ago showed brain damage but Kruger believes her daughter will walk and talk again.

Mia sees Pippie twice a week to monitor her skin's healing and has seen her improvements.

"She focuses on people, recognises them," Mia said. "She is also able to sit up by herself."