His first White Sunday away from family

It is Elia Iosefa’s first White Sunday away from family but the singing, the dancing and the Bible verse recitations would not have been far from his mind at the Moto’otua Hospital.

The 11-year-old from Salamumu has been admitted in the hospital’s paediatric ward and suffers from rheumatic heart disease, which is a consequence of rheumatic fever. This time last year he participated in his family’s celebration of White Sunday. 

He is the youngest of nine children to Iosefa Falelua and Sililoa Iosefa and frequented the hospital the last two to three years, until his full admission in May this year due to his deteriorating condition.

Speaking to the Sunday Samoan, his mother Sililoa said the doctors advised that the valves in his heart were leaking due to the rheumatic heart disease and that his condition will only get worse. 

“The saddest thing is that we were not aware that he suffered from a heart disease, but we only found out at the hospital. He was a late presenter, meaning his heart was in the severe stage, when he was admitted and could not meet the criteria for surgery, and therefore cannot be taken overseas."

“If he underwent surgery at his current state, he will not survive but overall his heart will keep failing. For the past two to three years he has been in and out of the hospital. But we have been in the hospital since May up til now.”

Elia experiences short breath while he is resting, has swelling of the leg, and coughing with a doctor indicating that he also has an enlarged heart.

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Close to six months of hospital admission is tough on the lad, but the recent entertainment by Matavai Cultural Arts group in the paediatric ward brought a smile to his face.  

“One of my unforgettable memories at the hospital is when the Matavai Cultural Arts group visited me earlier this week. They sang songs, performed dances just for me but I also got an early White Sunday presents and some money, I was grateful to them for making me smile,” he said.

But missing his family is taking its toll on him and sometimes he wishes he had a tablet to keep him busy while lying on his hospital bed. 

“In all honesty, I get bored every day just lying in bed all the time, I miss playing outside with my siblings and friends like a normal kid back home. But I miss my father and siblings the most, we live very far from the hospital so I don’t get to see them every day, but they always try and come see me when they can.”

Elia’s deteriorating condition compelled his mother to talk about how each day started for her.

“We start each day with a prayer and also end with it. During the day, he would have his meals and his medications but before taking his medicines, he always asks me to bless them with a prayer."

“And then sometimes if he feels like going for a ride in the wheelchair, we take him just around the hospital, so he won’t feel so tied and stuck in his hospital bed. It breaks my heart because this is his first White Sunday away from home – he was keen to watch this year’s performances due to the fact that he was in last year’s White Sunday production of songs, dances but most of all the memory verses. 

“The answer to any challenges in life is the Lord. I have given all our burdens, fears and worries unto him through prayer. I believe with all my heart that he is the healer and miracle worker but at the same time I trust my son’s life with him, no doubts in whatever his will may be for my boy,” she said.

Sililoa added that her husband takes care of their other children at home with the help of their relatives, and they are both grateful for the love and support from their family. 

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