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Gladewater mom of child with cerebral palsy counts blessings, waits for wish to be filled

By Christina Lane
Nov. 21, 2012 at 10 p.m.


GLADEWATER - After being told all his life that her son wouldn't make it, Kristina Klawinski has reasons to be thankful.

"I tell God every day how grateful I am for us to be together," she said Wednesday.

Klawinski's son, Klemente Klein, now 11, was born as a triplet at 23 weeks and was the only child to survive. He was subsequently diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The Make-A-Wish Foundation wants to grant the family's wish of installing a therapy room in their home; however, the condition of their aging house has made that impossible.

So members of the Gladewater community have come together to raise money and to help the family renovate the home, since the foundation set aside the funds for Klemente's wish until the first of the year.

Still, more help is needed to make the wish come true.

Klemente was born premature in Houston, weighing 1 pound, 4 ounces. He fit in the palm of his mother's hand, Klawinski said.

Klemente's feet were the largest part of his body, his mother said.

"My wedding ring would fit around his wrist, and I wear a size 8," Klawinski said.

Klemente spent most of the first three years of his life in the hospital. At 3 months old, he was on a ventilator and an IV that left a permanent scar on his right hand.

By the time he was 5 months old, Klemente weighed 10 pounds and looked like a typical newborn baby.

At 1 year old, Klemente was diagnosed as being legally blind, and he underwent surgery to keep as much of his vision as possible.

Throughout the next year and a half, Klemente continued to have surgeries. By the time he was 3 years old, Klemente had undergone 32 surgical operations, including 18 brain surgeries - having a shunt revision every 30 days for 18 months. He had also been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Despite being told time and time again that her son wouldn't make it, Klawinski said Klemente continued to push through.

Several years ago, while working at the prison in Huntsville, Klawinski contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and was placed in the hospital. She went into a coma and was close to death.

Meanwhile, Klemente was placed in a hospital where a gastrostomy tube - which is inserted in a child's abdomen to deliver nutrition - rotted out. He went into septic shock and respiratory stress and was flown to a children's hospital in Dallas.

"He fought for his life for a month," Klawinski said.

Shortly after she was released from the hospital and just a few days before Klemente was set to be released, Klawinski suffered a back injury that resulted in her having to wear a brace.

In time, the mother and son were reunited.

"We wouldn't be where we are without the grace and mercy of God," she said.

Klemente's smile

At 11 years old - despite his physical battles - Klemente has many similarities to other kids his age.

He loves music and attention and enjoys "The Cat in the Hat." He gives his mom high fives and gets excited when she sings to him. He's even met Neal McCoy.

But what he loves more than anything else is water.

When his nurses give him a bath, Klemente loves to be sprayed with water for half an hour. If they had a swimming pool, Klawinski said he'd be in it every day. He loves going to the splash pad in Longview and rolling around in his wheelchair on the pad.

Those around him say Klemente's smile and happiness are infectious.

"Every day I work with Klemente is amazing," said Josh Coleman, one of the boy's nurses. "If he's having a good day and smiling, I know I'm going to have a good day."

Klemente is home bound and receives care from physical therapists, speech therapists, nurses and others.

Klawinski said it upsets her when she goes to stores and people treat her son "like a leper."

"Sometimes I feel like Klemente and I live in the land of the misfits," Klawinski said. "What people might not realize is that those misfits are God's blessings in disguise."

While some people might not feel Klemente has a good quality of life, she said that's far from the case.

"People would be surprised at how many lives he touches," she said.

While it might be hard sometimes, Klawinski said it is her faith and inspiration from her son that push her through.

"God is always my first resource," she said.

Making a wish

About a year ago, the Make-A-Wish Foundation approved the family for a wish of a therapy room that would be complete with glass bubbles, a big projector, peg boards and other things for Klemente.

However, because of the conditions of the family's home, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has not been able to grant the wish. Their home in Gladewater is not conducive to Klemente's basic needs, Klawinski said.

Floors in the house are not stable, causing a safety risk for nurses, physical therapists and the boy, Klawinski said. Meanwhile, Klemente has outgrown the bathtub - his toes touch the wall. It takes two nurses to bathe Klemente, and his wheelchair goes into the small bathroom itself, filling up all the space and barely allowing any room to move.

"It's hard to believe my son has actually outgrown the house," she said.

Klawinski said Klemente needs a larger bathroom where he can roll into the shower and other wheelchair accessible devices.

She said she has been denied for help from Habitat for Humanity in Longview and Tyler because she does not live in those cities. She has also been denied by the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and the USDA.

"It seems like everywhere I go, I run into a dead end door," Klawinski said. "I realize there are a lot of people in need, but life is hard for a single mother of a special needs child."

Luke Marsh, one of Klemente's nurses, and Brandy Wady helped organize a benefit for him in Gladewater this past weekend to raise money.

Incoming Upshur County Pct. 1 Commissioner Paula Gentry, who takes office Jan. 1, was instrumental in getting the fundraiser off the ground, Klawinski said.

"Paula went above and beyond to help us," she said.

However, not that many people attended the fundraiser. Marsh and Wady have established an account at Austin Bank in Gladewater under their names and Klemente's name that anyone can donate to so the family can get into a house suitable for the foundation to grant Klemente's wish.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation has put the funds on hold until the first of the year, but Klawinski doesn't know how much longer than that they'll have to make their dream come true.

"I really love my little boy," she said. "The house is OK for me, but it's not suitable for him any more. ... Only God knows how this will work out."

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