An adorable five-year-old girl developed vitiligo all over her body – triggered by a battle with meningitis.
Aria Ellison developed white patches on her face and body after her dark skin began to lose pigmentation.
Doctors believe her vitiligo was brought on by the stress of her fight against bacterial meningitis, which she defied the odds to beat as a baby.
Little Aria was struck down by the deadly disease in April 2014, aged 16 months, and was rushed to hospital where she fought for her life.
Her mum, business analyst Alicia Ellison, 34, was doubly concerned because meningitis attacks the brain and Aria has cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder.
Fortunately, the brave youngster pulled through after undergoing a mastoidectomy, a procedure to scrape out diseased cells which left Aria partially deaf in her right ear.
She was discharged after two-and-a-half weeks at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, USA, but a few weeks later Alicia noticed white patches developing on Aria’s skin.
Around nine months later she noticed spotting on her arm and in the months that followed the whiteness began to spread rapidly.
Now the majority of Aria’s body is decorated with the striking patches, which her mum, from Miami, Florida, says are “beautiful”.
Alicia, founder of non-profit Aria’s Planet, which aims to provide arts therapy to children with special needs, said her music-loving daughter smiles in spite of everything.
Mum-of-two Alicia, who runs the Instagram page arias.planet for her daughter, said: “With the meningitis it was life or death for a moment, but Aria beat the odds.
“After she was discharged I noticed that the skin in her private area had started turning a white color.
“I didn’t know what it was in the beginning and I was concerned so I started to monitor her. It wasn’t anywhere else and it didn’t seem to be impacting her.
“Then I saw another spot on her arm so I took her to the dermatologist and they diagnosed her with vitiligo at the beginning of 2015.
“They said it was initiated by the stress on her body from the meningitis and from all the tests they had been doing.
“Soon after that it started to appear everywhere – on her back, chest and face.
“When I look back at photos from last year the difference is huge, but the most important thing is that Aria is healthy and striving.
“She lights up every room and so long as she is smiling and giggling, I’m happy.”
Aria was born in December 2012 after a healthy pregnancy, but when she was around four months old she began missing developmental milestones.
In 2014 she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a congenital disorder caused which permanently affects body movement and is caused by brain damage.
The condition means that wheelchair user Aria is unable to talk, has stiff limbs and a loose neck and has the mental age of a one year old.
Alicia, who is also a mom to ten-year-old Marzani Sconyers, said Aria undergoes regular physical therapy to help with her mobility and she recently learned to crawl.
Doctors also recommended that Aria undergo light therapy for the vitiligo, to restore some pigment to her skin, but Alicia decided against it because it’s primarily cosmetic.
Alicia, who is separated from Aria’s dad and is in a relationship with barber Del Ellis, 38, said: “Being in public we get a lot of looks and that was hard to deal with at first.
“Some people say things and some people are curious. With kids they always ask, ‘What is wrong, is she OK?’ Adults mostly stare and then look away.
“As a mom you feel as though you have to protect your child, but I had to realize that some people are unknowledgeable and some are ignorant.
“I had no idea that the meningitis could have caused vitiligo and it is still baffling to me now, but I have stopped boggling my mind trying to figure out why.
“It didn’t happen overnight but now I am focused on how to help Aria live the best life possible.”
Aria’s various health considerations inspired Alicia to launch Aria’s Planet, which aims to give children with special needs access to arts and music therapy.
In Aria’s case, listening to music helps her relax. She responds well to lullabies like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and listens to songs on YouTube every day.
To learn more about the non profit visit ariasplanet.com, or to keep up with Aria’s journey, visit her on Instagram @arias.planet.