On Sunday 20 August the Red Stars team from Redelinghuys traveled into Cape Town to visit their injured team mate – Wiehan Klaasen (26) at Groote Schuur Hospital!!
Much like Wiehan, The Players’ Fund relies on a team to play the role of Rugby’s Caring Hands. Part of this team is My Players – The Rugby Players’ Organisation. Wiehan Klaasen, who sustained a serious injury nearly 2 months ago had his team behind him this weekend thanks to rugby organisations clubbing together to support one of their own.
Wiehan Klaasen from the small town of Redlinghuys, which is situated between Piketberg and Elands Bay in the Western Cape (pop. 1000) sustained a spinal cord injury, which rendered him paralysed and unable to breath independently on 1 July 2017. The injury took place while he was playing lock for his local team – the Redlinghuys Red Stars RFC in a match against the Flying Eagles RFC from Eendekuil (West Coast).
He was in the ICU on a ventilator for 7 weeks but has successfully come off the breathing apparatus and is breathing independently. He has regained some movement in his limbs which is encouraging and he will soon be transferred to the Western Cape Rehab Centre in Mitchell’s Plain to commence a 3-4 month intensive spinal cord rehab programme to further encourage movement, sensation and functional independence.
The visit by the entire Red Stars Team on Sunday was coordinated jointly by the Players’ Fund and the Boland Rugby Union. My Players was represented by Scarra Ntubeni and Dillon Leyds and National Player Relationship Manager Isma-eel Dollie, which resulted in a lot of excitement and fan-fair from the hospital staff and patients in the corridors. The professional players thanked their fellow club players for supporting their injured team mate and highlighted that it showed the best things about rugby; camaraderie, brotherhood, loyalty and passion.
The Red Stars, led by their committed Chairperson Frederico Smith sang their team war-cry which had the whole ward smiling. Scarra shared his own injury experiences with the group – he remember, how he was forced to self-assess. He discovered that previously “life only went well when his rugby was going well.” Post injury he has now come to realise that “rugby is what he does and does not define who he is” which was an important message for Wiehan who probably won’t be able to run onto a rugby field again. Gail Baerecke (GM of the Players’ Fund) encouraged the team to remember that they are a crucial part of recovery and he is still part of the rugby family.
The gratitude from the team was felt as they thanked Gail for all her work since the day of the injury and it was a heartfelt reminder of the importance of the Players’ Fund in the lives of all of those involved in injuries such as this.