COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) — Family photographs of a little boy and his baby sister evoke a sense of pure happiness.
But for the parents of Eli and Erin Martens, what they see in the pictures is nothing short of heartache.
The couple’s 11-month-old girl was born with a heart defect that will require surgery in the coming months.
“Surgery should be around when she’s 1, but we’re hoping we can push it back a little bit with everything that we’ve found out with Eli,” Erin’s mother Allison Barkela said.
As if one child’s major medical challenge wasn’t enough, last week came another. That’s when they noticed their son, 3-year-old Eli, suddenly appeared bruised.
“You had no idea where they were coming from and his appetite was depleting,” Allison said.
They brought Eli in for testing at a local clinic, where they did a blood draw. Clinic staff directed the family to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital where he was admitted. Clearly, something was terribly wrong.
Cody and Allison were understandably alarmed and afraid.
“On the sign when you walk in it said, ‘Cancer and Blood Disorders.’ So I broke down right away,” Allison said.
Eli was soon diagnosed with B lineage Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. His chemotherapy started immediately and will last over three years.
For Cody and Allison, the costs of treating two sick kids will be staggering.
“There are definitely going to be medical bills,” Allison said.
Soon after learning the news, longtime friend Karleigh Wilkins visited Allison and her son Eli in the hospital.
“My friend who was with me had to leave the room because she started crying and then the second I got to the car I just started crying,” Wilkins said.
But her tears soon turned to help, as Karleigh helped set up a GoFundMe account to defray expenses for Cody and Allison.
With deep prayers and strong support, she and other supporters are hopeful for the day they will again see the two children with their toys, and not wearing masks and tubes.
“We certainly have had a whole bunch of outreach, that I am eternally grateful for,” Allison said.
If you would like to help the family there is a GoFundMe page here.
Eli Martens’ Caring Bridge site is here.