Dis­cov­er­ing the power of love and hope

The Star Malaysia - - The Good News Page - fatimah@thes­tar.com.my By FATIMAH ZAINAL

KUCHING: “Kak, do you want to see what my on­line friends said af­ter I posted a pic­ture of my­self on­line?” a mes­sage from El­iz­a­beth El­ida Ed­ward popped up on my phone screen.

The sprightly lass, who suf­fered 86% burns on her body as a re­sult of a fire at her house 13 years ago, has never shared a photo of her­self af­ter the mishap.

“What did they say?” I asked, re­mem­ber­ing that just a few months ago El­iz­a­beth said none of her on­line friends, whom she reg­u­larly speaks to on What­sApp, knows how she looks.

For the first time, she has up­loaded her photo as her What­sApp pro­file pic­ture.

“One of my friends said this to me, ‘Mostly peo­ple these days pri­ori­tise beauty so much that even if they have a pim­ple, they would com­plain. I re­spect you.

“You seemed unashamed to ex­pose your face. It’s like you are grate­ful for the bless­ings you were given by God, not like other peo­ple, who edit their pho­tos so much be­fore post­ing’,” wrote El­iz­a­beth.

I was proud of her and asked what spurred her to do it.

“I’ve gained more con­fi­dence af­ter my sto­ries came out and peo­ple read them,” she said.

I first met El­iz­a­beth at the chil­dren’s ward of the burn cen­tre at the Hal­lym Univer­sity Han­gang Sa­cred Heart Hos­pi­tal in Seoul on July 31.

She was ly­ing in her bed as nurses flit­ted around it, ad­just­ing her IV drip or tak­ing notes, ask­ing her ques­tions in English and Korean.

They were pre­par­ing El­iz­a­beth for her sec­ond surgery.

Be­fore the nurses wheeled her into the op­er­a­tion theatre, I saw El­iz­a­beth’s mother squeeze her daugh­ter’s hand, gen­tly stroke her hair and leaned down to whis­per in her ear.

Later, Murni, 42, told me that El­iz­a­beth was ner­vous, as she had gone un­der the knife so many times.

It was a few days later when El­iz­a­beth was re­cov­er­ing from the surgery – her sec­ond and fi­nal op­er­a­tion dur­ing her month-long stay at the hos­pi­tal – when I saw her again. She was typ­ing some­thing on her smart­phone us­ing her right hand. Her left hand, which was op­er­ated on, was in a ban­dage.

I, a rookie jour­nal­ist in my first year as a news re­porter and my first out-of-base as­sign­ment, was ner­vous. I did not know how she would re­act to me.

“I’m writ­ing a short story. It’s a mys­tery laced with a bit of ro­mance. I love to write,” she said when asked, and I smiled, no longer ner­vous. I knew that we would get along just fine.

Over the next few days, I learnt that her favourite bands were Lit­tle Mix and Fifth Har­mony, and that she loves cats, hand­i­crafts, and chat­ting with her on­line friends.

Her am­bi­tion is to be a lawyer or a nov­el­ist, and her favourite sub­ject is Math­e­mat­ics.

Her courage was un­sink­able and her eyes lit up when she laughed. Her pos­i­tiv­ity was con­ta­gious.

Her mother would com­plain about her messy room back home, and El­iz­a­beth would feign an­noy­ance, gig­gling cheek­ily.

El­iz­a­beth, half Bi­dayuh, half Kadazan­dusun, was cheer­ful, kind, plucky and funny with an ap­ti­tude for cheek­i­ness.

But her post-burn in­juries and de­for­mi­ties will re­quire life­long med­i­cal at­ten­tion and pos­si­bly more surg­eries.

On my last day in Seoul, I gave El­iz­a­beth a hug and asked her to be strong and to look af­ter her mother.

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