By Garry Howe
World renowned equestrian Janina Kletke almost lost her life helping a stranger at the height of the Bunyip Stake Park bushfires back in March.
Now, as she defies medical odds in her recovery, it is Janina who needs the help of strangers.
Her partner Ash Seing and their many friends have organised a fundraising event at Racing.com Park in August to cover rehabilitation and living costs as she strives to rebuild her life.
They were initially told Janina would be lucky to survive the ordeal, let alone regain normal function, but strength of character and hard work already has her a fair way down the road to recovery.
There is cruel irony in the fact that it was an extraordinary act of bravery and kindness that landed Janina in her current predicament.
She and Ash were aware of the dangers of the dry lightning strikes on Friday 1 March that sparked the big Bunyip State Park blaze.
As the fires started to take hold that night, Janina got her own horses to safety then posted on Facebook that she had a four-horse truck available for anyone else who may need help.
Access the area had been closed off and in the early morning of Monday 4 March, someone responded to her offer, saying that the CFA had agreed to allow someone in under escort to rescue four horses still in the line of fire.
Janina didn’t know the person asking for help, but didn’t hestitate to respond.
Escorted by members of the Doreen Fire Brigade, she got to the horses and had three loaded when she slipped and fell.
Unconscious for several minutes, her first thought when coming to was to get the fourth horse in the back of the truck. She was encouraged to take it easy by her CFA escorts, who managed to track down a nearby fire truck with two nurses on board.
An ambulance was called and Janina was rushed to The Alfred hospital for observation. Despite bursting a major artery, it wasn’t until she arrived that she started to go downhill and she spent the next three weeks in a coma.
“While she was in the coma we were told it was unlikely she would survive, given the extent of the injury,” Ash said. “Then then they said she may live, but not be fully functional.”
As it now stands, Janina is a rehab outpatient addressing issues with her left arm and impaired vision, a recovery that has astounded the medics.
Being self-employed, she will struggle to get back to work and, with the insurance money dried up, needs help with the ongoing treatment and rehabilitation expenses.
She and Ash would also like to contribute to the team at The Alfred, which they said did a wonderful job.
“It is unbelievable what they do, saving lives day and night – it is just incredible and they are so professional,” Ash said.
The response from the local community and the equine community internationally has been incredible, Ash said.
Janina was an accomplished dressage rider in her native Germany and moved to Australia in 2009, first to Perth and then to Bowral in New South Wales to become a rider at the Bluefields Warmblood Stud. While there she took out both the Prix St Georges and Prix St Georges Stars of the Future competition at the 2013 Australian Dressage Championships.
Janina met Ash, operations manager at John Duff and Co at Kooweerup, while there and moved down to settle with him at Garfield.
As a German Bereiter (having served an apprenticeship to train dressage horses), Janina brought a wealth of knowledge and invaluable expertise to Australian dressage.
The Night for Janina will be held at Racing.com Park in Tynong on Friday 9 August at 6.30pm. Guest speaker is former Victorian Homicide Squad Detective Charlie Bezzina. Tickets are $110 including a two course dinner, beer wine and soft drinks package (spirits at bar prices) and the entertainment.
There will be auctions and other fundraising activities on the night.
To book go to www.globalentriesonline.com.au/equestrian_coaching/details/?eventId=1210&eventDetailId=6774
Or anyone who cannot attend buy would like to help can search Janina’s Gofundme page.