Damascus College student Eli Spielvogel is cutting his long hair to help others

TRESSES: Eli Spielvogel will shave his long locks to raise money for the Leukemia Foundation. Picture: supplied
TRESSES: Eli Spielvogel will shave his long locks to raise money for the Leukemia Foundation. Picture: supplied

Eli Spielvogel had a close shave with death as a baby, and now he's in good health he wants to help others by going through another close shave - this time by choice.

Born with multiple holes in his heart and a blocked aorta, when he was rushed to the Royal Children's Hospital a week after he was born his parents Adam and Naomi were told it was unlikely he would survive the trip.

Eli had his first heart surgery at nine days old and open heart surgery when he was six months old.

After the second surgery his heart would not beat on its own, so a temporary pacemaker was installed in the hope his own heartbeat would return, but it did not so the pacemaker stayed.

"With Eli's open heart surgery he was meant to be in there a week and a half for surgery and recovery but ended up being in ICU for three weeks and only released on Christmas Eve," said Eli's dad Adam.

"Eli spent his first Christmas going through morphine withdrawals and was sent home with a pain management schedule to wean him off it."

When he was eight, Eli's heart began beating on its own and the pacemaker was removed, but he still has a leaky valve in his heart with requires monitoring at the RCH every six months and faces more surgery in the future.


Apart from that, Eli is healthy and determined to pay his good fortune forward.

Having grown his hair for the past three years, he will shave his long red locks at Damascus College on Tuesday to raise money for the Leukemia Foundation.

"I went through a really tough time I don't want other people to go through that sort of thing," he said.

Knowing first hand what it's like to be a sick kid, he wants to raise money to help other sick kids, and he's well on the way with about $1000 pledged.

"My other reason for shaving my head is that I want a child with no hair to benefit and gain confidence from receiving my hair," Eli said. Eli's hair will be donated to make wigs for children who lose their own hair going through cancer treatment.

"It's important because i had a tough road in my life that I overcame and i think it's important for people to overcome theirs," he said.

Mr Spielvogel said his son would likely need more treatment throughout life, and given he has had dozens of chest x-rays there is a high chance he will develop complications from the repeated radiation exposure.

In spite of everything he has been through, Eli dreams of becoming an airline pilot and is taking flying lessons. He plans to obtain his private pilot's licence on his 15th birthday, which is the youngest day he is allowed to fly solo.

"I just enjoy being up in the air," he said.

Mr Spielvogel said Eli had taught him much in the face of adversity.

"He has taught me to accept the giving of others, as I know how much it means to Eli to give and have his gift accepted. He is smart with his possessions and will ration his Easter Eggs for the year but will happily give away anything to see people happy. He is just that special and caring kind of kid," Mr Spielvogel said.