Hours after celebrating her 14th birthday on April 22, Eliza Pavia’s family found her unresponsive and without a heartbeat at their Saratoga Springs home.
After performing CPR and rushing her to the local hospital, and then on to Primary Children’s Hospital, Eliza became sicker and sicker, with her lungs filling up with fluid.
Since that day, Eliza’s parents Jenny and Mike Pavia have spent most of their days in the hospital, attending their sick, little girl. In that time, their neighborhood and church community has rallied around them. Because of what Eliza means to them, the community even started a Facebook group, ”United for Eliza,” and Instagram dedicated to sharing updates on Eliza’s condition, and also provided a place for people to buy t-shirts, pins and other items to provide funds for Eliza’s hospital bills. There is also a GoFundMe for the family.
Eliza has been in a special needs class since elementary school, but no doctors have ever been able to diagnosis her exact condition. “She’s an anomaly,” her aunt, Kristin Powell, said.
But the most special thing about Eliza, Powell said, is her unique ability to connect with people.
“She has a spiritual connection with people to recognize when she needs to be kind and thoughtful and know social cues to say the right thing to help people,” Powell said. “She is just a ball of love and no judgment.”
At just 50 pounds, Eliza is small and quick, easy to lose in a crowd. Her family shared on Facebook that one night while attending an outdoor high school sporting event, they later found her on the shoulders of someone in the crowd, cheering on the team.
“Her mom said she used to worry because everywhere they go, people would know (Eliza), and at first she’s like, why do all these adults know my kid? But she makes an impression everywhere she goes,” said Audrey Parry Rock, a neighbor to the Pavia’s and the organizer behind a community fundraiser for the family. “Everyone knows her, everyone loves her, she wants everyone to smile, she wouldn’t pass anyone in the hall of church or school without giving them a fist bump or a hug or a high-five or tickling the little kids to make them laugh.”
Powell, Jenny Pavia’s sister, shared a personal story about Eliza uplifting a family member who suffers from depression. At her daughter’s wedding three years ago, she said, a male family member was having a rough day, which Eliza recognized.
“Eliza just saw him sitting there and without any kind of prompting, she just ... went over and talked to him and just lifted his spirits. And his wife came up to (Jenny), emotional, relaying this experience that Eliza just completely picked up his spirits and touched him in a way that most people couldn’t, and I guess that’s Eliza,” Powell said.
Powell said since Eliza’s been in the hospital, Jenny Pavia has been overwhelmed with the number of stories shared with her from people about how Eliza has touched their lives.
“She’s just a really, really special little girl. People needed her to live for them, just a beacon of strength and hope and light, to kind of press forward in a way because really, it’s a hard road for Eliza and her parents,” Powell said. “She still continues to strengthen so many.”
After being heavily sedated for the first few weeks of her hospital stay, Eliza is awake and showing improvement. Much of the improvement came after she was fitted with a pacemaker over a week ago, and her family is hopeful she will be able to return home in the next week. This Saturday, on Jenny Pavia’s birthday, Parry Rock and other Saratoga Springs community members are holding a benefit fundraiser for the Pavia family, complete with food, games, raffles, a community yard sale, a silent auction and more.
Beyond the fundraiser, neighbors have arranged to help the Pavia’s other four children get to and from school, made meals for the family, cleaned their home and even replanted their backyard garden.
“It’s just been an amazing response. ... It’s just been amazing to see the community pull together for this little girl,” Parry Rock said. “I can’t even mention all the people that have volunteered to help. It’s been pretty incredible.”
It’s been incredible for the Pavias, too. Powell, speaking on behalf of Jenny Pavia and her family, said the family is grateful to their community, and for the outpouring of love and support for their family and Eliza.
“It has changed (Jenny) forever, and it has changed her perspective on life forever,” Powell said.
The fundraiser for Eliza begins 10 a.m. Saturday, at Orchard Park in Saratoga Springs. Donations for the raffle and auction are still being accepted.