The little girl who has few reasons to smile is holding a ball that says: “ Smile ! Jesus loves you!”
Liana, age 10, was not expected to be alive by now. She has acute myelogenous leucosis, one of the most fatal forms of leukemia.
Four months ago doctors told her father that the girl was too sick to even bother staying in hospital. They told him to take her home. To die.
“I couldn’t bury my daughter alive,” says Aram Givargizov, Liana’s father. “I knew I had to do everything to save my child and I insisted on her hospitalization.”
The disease has completely destroyed the girl’s bone marrow and the level of white blood cells was 10 ten times below normal, says the doctor who treats Liana at the Institute of Hematology, Samvel Agatelyan.
In her first month of treatment, she had 25 blood transfusions because of non-stop bleeding from her gums.
Liana lives with her parents and two sisters,
in Upper Dvin, a village of about 3,000 in the Artashat region, some 35 kilometers south of Yerevan. Her father is Assyrian; her mother is Armenian.
At the end of last year the girl caught cold. There is no hospital in Upper Dvin. There’s only one doctor, who examined Liana and said she had a usual case of flu.
But when Liana’s health worsened, her parents took her to doctors in Artashat. There, the discovery of her true condition was devastating and incomprehensible.
“She never fell ill when she was little,” recalls Anna Khachaturyan, Liana’s mother.
The doctor says that if she’d been brought to the hospital a week later, it would have been impossible to save the girl.
Only 15 percent of patients with her diagnosis are cured. Intensive treatment lasts a year and a half and consists of four courses. On whole, patients have to be under a doctor’s observation for five years to get the disease to a manageable level.
After the first course of treatment the girl’s state significantly improved. The mother is happy saying, “Lianik’s analysis is clear.”
Agatelyan explains that “tissues of bone marrow have completely recovered but there still are cancerous cells in the organism.”
After a month of being confined to bed the doctor allowed Liana to walk, but not long. The first thing she did was ask her mother to take her to a church and then to a merry-go-round. In the street the girl never takes off her blue hat. It covers the balding effects of chemotherapy.
Liana says that during the long days spent in hospital she likes most of all to draw. Her drawings now decorate the pale walls of the hospital ward. She especially likes drawing flowers and animals.
The first course of treatment cost $1000, says Anna. For a family dependent on a teacher’s salary (an average of about $30 a month) and whatever the garden produces to sell in market, the amount is inconceivable.
But while money is hard to come by, the support of friends has been plenty.
When villagers found out about Liana’s disease, they came to the hospital to give blood. They also collected money. Anna says there was a lot of support from the priest of Upper Dvin village, father Isahak.
Just recently Liana has started the second course of treatment. The girl’s father says if they don’t manage to find money to continue the treatment they’ll have to sell their only cow.
But giving up the family’s source of income would be a price worth paying, especially seeing the improvement Liana has made in recent weeks.
She remains in hospital. But these days, Liana can sometimes go outside. She plays with her sisters and other kids at the hospital. And the smiles in her room are not just on the ball in her hand.
(If you would like to send a letter of encouragement, or help Liana and her family, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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