Six years ago, this Cape Flats dad’s life changed dramatically when he was left paralysed from the neck down due to a freak diving accident.
Shortly afterwards, his wife left him, leaving him, bedridden, with six young children to look after.
The journey has not been an easy one for Ricardo Julies, 39, and his family of Bonteheuwel, who live on disability and child grants.
The dad and his kids, aged six, seven-year-old twins, eight, 10 and 14, are being cared for by his cousin Carmen Julies, 35.
But his wife, Rene, 38, tells the Daily Voice life became “too much” for her, and admits taking to the bottle to help her cope.
A desperate Carmen contacted the Daily Voice this week, saying they are in dire need of help.
Ricardo needs a specialised bed, while the children need clothing, shoes and the family “often goes to bed hungry”.
Ricardo explains the 2011 tragedy when his family went on an outing to Harmony Park Resort in Strand.
“I was standing on the jetty and the water was too shallow when I dived,” the former tiler says.
“I was left paralysed. My whole life changed; I was the breadwinner of the family.”
Ricardo spent eight months in hospital.
“As soon as I came out of hospital, my wife was gone, she left the children with me.
“She comes here sometimes and visits me and the children,” he adds.
Carmen takes care of Ricardo and his children, but says it isn’t easy.
Ricardo needs a motorised wheelchair, a “ripple” mattress top and a suction machine to clear his airway via his trachea.
“The hole was made to give him a way to breathe when they transported him with the helicopter to hospital after the accident,” Carmen explains.
“I need to clear it of the mucous and phlegm, else he can choke on it, but this [suction machine] is now very old and he needs a new one.
“The mattress he needs is a ripple one, this one is six years old and is broken. I have to make repairs myself. It helps for the blood circulation and [to prevent] bedsores.”
Ricardo says his kids often go barefoot and sleep on a double bunk with no mattress.
“The blankets are rolled on the bed as there are no mattresses for them,” he says.
An emotional Rene says she and Ricardo had a loving marriage.
“When the accident happened, my twins were still babies and my baby was three months old.
“Ricardo was eight months in hospital and I couldn’t cope and I took to the bottle.
“I left, and he asked for his children when he came home,” she says.
If you can assist, call
Carmen on 082 288 2447.