Typically, a child’s most anticipated and special time of the year is their birthday celebration; a day brimming with gifts, well wishes and an abundance of pampering from their loved ones.
But for 10-year-old Eliyatul Ikhlas, the day marks another triumphant year of battling a rare and debilitating circulatory disorder called arteriovenous malformations (AVM).
AVM is the abnormal connection and blockage of blood vessels that hinders oxygenated blood flow through out the body. Over time, the pressured vessels may rupture and cause internal bleeding, a stage which Eliya has entered and is currently suffering through.
If left untreated, this condition may result in hemorrhaging in the brain, neurological disabilities, seizures, stroke and death.
Thanks largely to her innate fighting spirit, Eliya turns 11 years old on Aug. 29. Unfortunately, the date will also mark 11 years of uncelebrated birthdays due to grave financial restraints.
“Being able to celebrate a simple birthday for our children seems unimaginable,” says Lilis, Eliya’s mother.
Residing in the outskirts of Jakarta, Eliya’s father struggles as a fisherman to provide for the family. Living in extreme poverty with a total earnings of less than $100 per month, the family is left to survive with some $5 a day for basic necessities, including baby supplies for their two youngest daughters and much-needed medical treatment for Eliya.
Often times, the family of six struggles to eat twice a day, with some members sacrificing their second meal so that the remaining may have their first.
With no room left for extra expenditures, simple luxuries of life, such as gifts and celebrations, remain part of an unobtainable fantasy. So when Eliya innocently wished to commemorate the date of her birth for the very first time this year, her parents were left desolate.
“As a mother, it shatters my heart knowing that I am unable to grant my little girl this simple wish. It would be a miracle to have even the slightest chance of celebrating Eliya’s birthday,” says the mother of four.
To grant the brave 10-year-old her simple yet seemingly unfeasible request, Count Me In partnered with Komunitas Taufan — a community providing moral and monetary support to sick children and their families — decided to turn Eliya’s wish into reality by initiating a 10-day campaign called #BirthdayCards4Eliya. The initiative aims to collect a minimum of 100 birthday cards from donors around the city from Aug. 18 to 27.
Count Me In then plans to surprise Eliya by flooding her bed with numerous cards and a cake on the morning of her 11th birthday.
With your help, this little girl will finally get the chance to celebrate the day of her birth for the first time in her life.
Contributors are encouraged to send birthday cards with a few uplifting words in either English or Indonesian to: Count Me In, c/o Eliya, BeritaSatu Plaza 9th Floor, Jalan Gatot Subroto Kav. 35-36, Jakarta 12950, Indonesia.
With the help of Komunitas Taufan, Eliya has spent the past year undergoing multiple treatments and surgeries to slow the pace of her debilitation, but the general outcome still remains in doubt.
“She was close to losing her left arm due to severe blood infections and clotting,” says Yanie Dewi Mulyaningsih, the founder of Komunitas Taufan.
“If the swelling and bruising worsen or spread, she may still be in grave danger of amputation. The success of her treatment depends on how Eliya’s blood responds to it. We can only hope for a positive outcome.”
Meanwhile, Eliya shared her dreams with Count Me In.
“When I grow up, I want to be an elementary school teacher,” she says, adding that she hopes to someday visit a theme park. With her condition confining her to her bed, she has yet to experience life outside the four walls of hospital rooms and halfway houses.
“Despite the struggle she faces on a daily basis, all Eliya ever does is smile at the world,” Yanie says.
“So imagine what a beautiful impact this simple gesture from all around the city would have on her!”
Count Me In invites readers to grant this brave 10-year-old girl a simple wish by participating in #BirthdayCards4Eliya and help ensure that Eliya’s smile never fades.