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Abused child turns four, starts school; family looks forward to bright future

By Staff | Sep 8, 2010

Kaydin Matheisen is healing, but will face many challenges throughout his life because of the severe brain trauma he sustained at the hands of Rosemary Kunz.

In the Aug. 20 issue of the Sanibel-Captiva Islander, Sheri Prange shared her traumatic story about the severe abuse that her three-year-old nephew Kaydin Matheisen suffered at the hands of his soon-to-be stepmother Rosemary Kunz in October of 2008.

Since the story was published, Kaydin celebrated his fourth birthday and Kunz plead “no contest” and received an 18-year prison sentence.

At the end of the trial, Prange’s brother Shane Lewis, Kaydin’s father, gave his thanks for all the people that helped him, his son, Kaydin’s mother Ferhan Matheisen and Prange in their trying time.

Prange shared her brother’s comments from that day:

“We realize how fortunate we are to have Kaydin around. There are so many families that have lost their children to child abuse,” Lewis said, thanking the dedicated staff at HealthPark Hospital in Fort Myers and at All Children’s Hospital in Tampa, the investigative personnel who worked on the case and Francine Donnorummo from the State Attorney’s office.

From left are Sheri Prange, her son Rocco and Ferhan Matheisen, Kaydin’s mother. This picture was taken in Prange’s new apartment, which CHR helped her to acquire.

He also thanked the Ronald McDonald house for their help, which allowed him and Ferhan to stay at Kaydin’s bedside throughout his two-month stay at All Children’s Hospital, and members of the Sanibel Community Church for their prayers and taking care of Kunz’s daughter Angela throughout the ordeal.

While Lewis was staying at the hospital, Friends in Service Here (FISH) of Sanibel helped Prange take care of Kaydin’s half-brother Ace, her son Rocco and Angela.

“If it had not been for the kindness of Maggi Feiner and FISH of Sanibel, I do not know how we could have made it.”

“Exactly one week ago,” Lewis continued, “we were able to celebrate Kaydin’s fourth birthday. It was a joyous occasion with his loving family members around a choo-choo train cake.”

So, how is Kaydin doing?

Kaydin Matheisen, age four, and his half-brother Ace, age three, all dressed up for school at the Children’s Education Center of the Islands.

“He’s fabulous. He’s going to school now at the Children’s Center,” Matheisen said, noting that while she was happy about Kaydin’s enrollment, she’d spent many weeks frantically sending out applications trying to find a place for three-year-old Ace to attend.

But a serendipitous encounter between Lynn Riddlehoover, who had helped Prange with the challenges of raising four children, and the president of the Children’s Education Center, resulted in a scholarship for Ace to attend pre-kindergarten with Kaydin.

But while Kaydin and his family are overjoyed with his recovery and his brand new school, Lewis acknowledged in his statement that Kaydin will undoubtedly face challenges for the rest of his life.

“Kaydin will have a lifetime of ongoing, rigorous medical services to overcome,” Lewis said. “As the Brain Injury Association of Florida has informed us, there will always be challenges and changes with this type of injury. We will always be assessing Kaydin, who currently lags behind children his own age. The teacher at his new school has informed us he is unable to hold the pencil as is expected of children his age. I will never be able to see him on the football field, on a dirt bike or in any other contact or extreme sport.”

And though Kaydin’s smile might always be a little lopsided, Lewis and Matheisen are just grateful to have their little boy back and to be able to kiss him and tuck him in at night.

Prange and her son Rocco, who just moved into their new apartment, provided by Community Housing & Resources — Lewis, Matheisen will be moving to Sanibel soon too — says she and her family can finally look towards the future and all the good things that are sure to come.

“We feel like we can really put that chapter behind us and really move forward with our family,” Prange said. “But there are still a lot of other people out there that are hurting or need help. Whenever people are leaving the islands, they can always donate their unused food or old clothing and FISH would be more than happy to take it.”

FISH accepts unexpired, unopened, perishable and non-perishable food items in addition to personal care products (such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, hand soap and shampoo), laundry supplies, paper products, diapers and pet food. Items can be donated at FISH’s Walk-in Center, located at 1630-B Periwinkle way on Sanibel.

Walk-in Center hours are June through September, Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and October through May, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information about FISH and how you can help, call 472-4775, e-mail info@fishofsanibel.com or visit www.fishofsanibel.com.