HOT SPRINGS — Nearly a year ago, Hot Springs native Harlee Salmi, 6, was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG. It's an aggressive brain tumor that attacks the brain stem that controls breathing, heart rate and the nerves and muscles that help humans perform everyday functions.
Doctors have yet to find a cure and haven't made any significant progress over the past 50 years. The life expectancy rate after diagnosis is typically 6-9 months, however Salmi will be going on a year on May 4.
Since she was diagnosed last spring, Hot Springs and the surrounding communities have stepped up to help raise funds for her battle.
In October during the 14-C district volleyball tournament in Noxon, each team wore "Hope for Harlee" warm-up shirts in an effort to raise funds and brings good spirits to the family.
And just this week, Salmi turned six and got a special birthday greeting from the Hot Springs community and beyond.
"It was pretty special we were all in tears as everybody came through," said Harlee's mom, Taylor Salmi. "The support that we received from our community and neighboring communities throughout this entire process has just been has been incredible. Just to know that they are still thinking of us even as we near the end of our journey. I mean it definitely makes the days go by a little bit better, even though it's a really tough time. Kind acts like that are very heartwarming and mean so much to us as a family."
However, the Salmi family made the tough decision to discontinue Harlee's treatments. It's been three weeks since then and Harlee's basic functions are starting to fail.
While she can't speak, Taylor asked her daughter if it was her best birthday yet.