慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
So Young, So Strong

Engellie, 11, suffered a stroke in 2016. Despite the setback, she was determined to pass her final exams and be promoted to fifth grade without any delay.

Engellie studies her own X-rays as she recuperates at home.

To Engellie, an 11-year-old girl in Jakarta, Indonesia, it is a blessing to go to school and meet friends, not something to be taken for granted. After fighting for several months to recover from a stroke, she was finally able to return to her school, an elementary school in the first Tzu Chi Great Love Village in Indonesia. She and her family live near the village.

Engellie was born with thin blood vessels. Though it is difficult to treat this congenital condition, she had managed to stay in school throughout her early childhood. But early in the morning of March 25, 2016, as she was washing up in the bathroom, getting ready to go to church with her family for Good Friday services, she suddenly felt limp and the right side of her body went numb. She collapsed on the floor. The thud prompted her mother, Tjhin Siau Ling, to open the door to the bathroom to check on her.

The girl was rushed to the emergency room at the hospital in the Tzu Chi Great Love Village. The doctors there said that her condition was too serious for the hospital to treat, and they referred her to RSUD Cengkareng, a larger hospital.

At the Cengkareng hospital, Engellie was diagnosed with a stroke to the left side of her brain. When Tjhin heard this, her thoughts flashed back ten years, to the time when her son died of a brain disease at the age of five and a half. Now a brain problem had struck her other child. She could hardly muster enough courage to walk into the intensive care unit to see her daughter.

Tjhin’s friends from church went to the hospital after the church service. They cheered her and told her that she must believe that there would be a way out of this bind.

Deeply worried, Tjhin sat at Engellie’s bedside and prayed for a miracle.

After nine hours in the ICU, Engellie could move and bend her right leg, and she could stick out her tongue. Tjhin became hopeful, but her hope was quickly dashed when the hospital suggested that Engellie be transferred to another hospital for more specialized treatment. The mother again despaired, worried about the cost of treatment.

 Her friend Robert informed Engellie’s school principal of the family’s predicament. The principal in turn brought the situation to the attention of Tzu Chi volunteers. Volunteer Yang Bi-lu (楊碧露) happened to know Dr. Gunawan Susanto, a neurologist at Rumah Sakit Satya Negara, a private hospital. With the doctor’s help, Engellie was admitted into the hospital that same evening. Aggressive treatment ensued.

Tjhin appreciated Tzu Chi’s help. “I’m truly grateful. Through the foundation, God has opened a way for Engellie.”

A strong desire to stay in school propelled Engellie to attend classes, even though she was still recovering from her illness.

 

Volunteer Chen Gui-xiong (陳桂雄) visited Engellie at the hospital not long after. He also talked to other volunteers about giving the best help they could to the family.

Dr. Gunawan Susanto explained to the family that many risk factors might result in a stroke, such as lifestyle, sleep deprivation, and stress. In Engellie’s case, abnormal blood vessels were the culprit. She was the first pediatric stroke case that the doctor had ever encountered.

The left side of Engellie’s brain had sustained extensive hemorrhaging, and she was in a coma. The medical team decided to operate on her in two stages. First, they would remove the blood clots and remove the left side of her skull to lower her intracranial pressure. When her cerebral edema had abated, they would follow up with a second operation to reattach the side of her skull.

The surgery no doubt carried its risks, but Tjhin decided to trust the medical team. “I hope that this is the best arrangement for Engellie, and I’ll keep praying to God.”

The first operation took place on March 31, six days after Engellie collapsed at home. The left side of her skull was removed and stored in her own abdominal cavity. Then she was discharged to recuperate at home. On May 17, she had another operation to restore her skull.

She underwent rehabilitation and speech therapy through April and May. Volunteer Chen was at her side. He pointed out that the girl was strong and firmly resolved to triumph over her disease. “She’s making louder and louder sounds,” he reported, “and she can now walk unassisted. She’s made great strides in her recovery.”

Her mother asked whether she wanted to stay in school. Engellie said yes and added, “Mom, I want to return to school as a fifth grader. I don’t want to be held back.”

To reach that goal, however, she would need to surmount some obstacles. Though she still could not write with her right hand, she asked school authorities to allow her to make up for the classes that she had missed. The school consented and sent her homeroom teacher, Sunarjo, to tutor her.

Teacher Sunarjo tutors Engellie at her home to help her make up the classes she missed.
 

“Engellie had no problem with her grades before she fell ill, and she’s eager to learn,” Sunarjo said. Other teachers, such as for English and Chinese, also went to her home to teach her what she had missed.

School administrators were impressed by her desire and effort to learn and respected her determination to be promoted to the fifth grade, so they allowed her to take the final exams at home.

The girl and her mother went to school to pick up her report card on June 22, about five weeks after her second surgery. She had passed the tests with flying colors, and she would advance to fifth grade, just as she had worked so hard to achieve.

Tjhin felt particularly blissful that day. “I’m grateful to Engellie’s doctors, and also thankful to Tzu Chi volunteers for all that they’ve done for us, especially their help with my girl’s medical bills,” she said.

Engellie started fifth grade on July 18, 2016, when the school opened for the new school year. Many parents took their children to their new classrooms, and the campus bustled with life and excitement. Engellie and her father, hand in hand, walked into her new classroom.

She was ready to go ahead and pursue her dream: She wants to become a chef. People around her—her family, volunteers, doctors, and teachers—can feel her vitality and determination, and they stand ready to give her their best support.

Volunteer Chen Gui-xiong accompanies Engellie to a rehabilitation session.
 

 

Spring 2017