PLAQUEMINES PARISH, La. — Michelle Winterstein says her daughter is like any other kid.
“She loves slime, painting, favorite color is green. She loves to make a mess, that’s her thing,” Winterstein said.
Her daughter is also a fighter.
“She’s still here,” Winterstein said. “That alone is the biggest fight.”
That fight started when 9-year-old Isabella Castanza was hit by a dump truck while getting off her school bus Oct. 6. It happened on Highway 23, near her home in Plaquemines Parish.
“According to investigators the school bus driver was doing what she needed to do,” Trooper Ross Brennan with Louisiana State Police Troop B said. “Signs were extended. The lights were flashing. He failed to come to a stop.”
State police say the driver of the dump truck, 61-year-old Gregory Valentine of Donaldsonville, swerved onto the shoulder, trying to avoid hitting the back of the bus. Instead, Valentine hit the Belle Chasse fourth grader, leaving her with serious injuries.
“Unfortunately, she was awake during the entire incident. She did not pass out. She was awake for the truck stopping on her and everything,” Winterstein said.
Castanza was airlifted to Children’s Hospital New Orleans. Winterstein says her daughter has been sedated ever since and recovery will be long. At least half of Castanza’s left foot and the lower part of her right leg need to be amputated.
“That’s going to happen at the end of the week, they’re just trying to give her body time to basically calm down and see what her tissue and stuff like that is going to do,” Winterstein said.
Luckily, there were no internal or upper body injuries.
“She’s so lucky when it comes to that. Nothing above the pelvis is great,” Winterstein said.
Winterstein says her daughter will be in a wheelchair for a while, creating needs they never thought they’d have to deal with. Castanza’s stepdad, Jonathan Fernandez, is thankful she’ll still be able to be a kid.
“Cherish your child like your most prized possession because your child is your most prized possession,” Fernandez said.
Valentine is charged with negligent injuring, reckless operation of a vehicle, and driving with a suspended license.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with Castanza’s medical expenses. You can find that account here.