Child burn survivor finally wears a smile - not a mask

Elizabeth Elida Edward, seen here with her mother, Madam M. Murni J. Muteh, was just two years old when a fire left her disfigured and crippled and killed her two older siblings. Due to her severe burns, she used to have to wear a mask whenever she w
Elizabeth Elida Edward, seen here with her mother, Madam M. Murni J. Muteh, was just two years old when a fire left her disfigured and crippled and killed her two older siblings. Due to her severe burns, she used to have to wear a mask whenever she went out. Now, nearly two months after her free medical treatment in Seoul, the 15-year-old says she can see the results.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA (Malaysia) • At just 15, burn survivor Elizabeth Elida Edward has seen moments so dark and terrible that most people could probably not even imagine them.

She was only two years old when a fire left her disfigured and crippled, and was too young then to remember the tragedy that also claimed the lives of her two older siblings 13 years ago. Yet, the fire continues to affect her today despite the passage of time.

It left Elizabeth hospitalised for more than six months. Since then, she has been in and out of hospitals, in Sarawak and Kelantan in Malaysia and then South Korea, for all her life.

Her hands became deformed because of the fire. She could walk, but her left foot was disfigured and she was often in pain, which made regular school attendance impossible.

"There was no skin on nearly all of her body. Doctors had to patch up her body with skin from her scalp," recalled her mother, Madam M. Murni J. Muteh, 42.

When Elizabeth first went to kindergarten in Kelantan, where her family had moved to seek treatment for her at the Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital, she said her classmates were afraid of her. She had only two friends, but has since lost contact with them.

"When she was little, she used to have to wear a mask whenever she went out," Madam Murni said, adding that because of this, she nicknamed her daughter "Girl".

"People were always confused about her gender because of the mask, so I started calling her Girl. It has stuck as her nickname ever since," she said.

Now, almost two months after receiving free medical treatment in Seoul, under the Hallym Burn Foundation which helps survivors with burn scars, Elizabeth said she has been able to see the results.

Although she gets tired occasionally, it is easier for her to walk now, she said. "I went back to school in the middle of September and will sit my first PT3 paper soon. I was excited to be in school and to prepare for my PT3 trials," she added.

"I love to go to school, but I don't have many friends there."

Elizabeth, whose favourite subject is mathematics, is slated to sit her PT3, or Form 3 assessment, exams next Monday. The Form 3 student at SMK Wira Penrissen in Kuching lives each day the best she can. In her spare time, the budding writer enjoys making arts and crafts, listening to pop songs and joining storytelling competitions.

"I want to be a lawyer or novelist when I'm older. I love to write. I write short stories and read stories online," said the cheerful teenager, who also dreams of owning a laptop one day to document her stories.

Elizabeth likes to write fiction and action stories. But the story of her life, from being a severe burn victim at two to almost normal at 15, makes for far better reading.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2017, with the headline 'Child burn survivor finally wears a smile - not a mask'. Print Edition | Subscribe