Little Red Scarf is in Lanzhou, Gansu and Yunnan province and provides financial support and encouragement to children suffering from congenital heart disease. In addition, they provide families with post-operative care and help the children sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Xiaoting’s home is in the Longzhong area in Gansu Province, 95 kilometers south of Lanzhou. Xiaoting and Xihong live in the same village, which is easily accessible and relatively closer to the city. Xiaoting’s family is also very special. Her father moved in with her mother’s family after marriage, and her mother died 50 days after giving birth to Xiaoting. The family knows that Xiaoting’s mother has heart problems, but still does not know to this day whether her problems were congenital or rheumatic. Xiaoting’s grandfather also passed away early, so Xiaoting and her older brother were both raised by their grandmother because their father is often working away from home. Xiaoting’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother are also living with them. Little Red Scarf staff still recalls Xiaoting’s great-grandfather to this day. Xiaoting found out she had congenital heart disease when she was 3 years old because of catching a cold. Her great-grandpa insisted on giving Xiaoting surgery. When Xiaoting was 7 years old, her great-grandpa was nearly 80 and was asking all around, finding out about LRS being able to support impoverished CHD patients from the local women’s federation. When Xiaoting was hospitalized, it was also her great-grandfather who communicated with LRS and the medical personnel. The doctors at the hospital do not remember Xiaoting anymore, but when we brought up the 80-year-old great-grandfather bringing his great-granddaughter to the hospital for surgery, they recalled immediately and praised the great-grandfather.
Four years have past, and LRS and Xiaoting’s great-grandfather are still in touch. The over 80-years-old great-grandfather is generally healthy except for his impaired hearing. We learned the changes of the child and of the family through each of our follow-up phone calls. The great-grandfather is also a dedicated Little Red Scarf volunteer, recommending another CHD patient from the same village, Xihong, to LRS. Xihong and Xiaoting underwent surgery the same year. Because of Xihong’s special family circumstances, we could not contact his family, so we learned about Xihong’s conditions through Xiaoting’s great-grandfather. He told us, “Xihong’s grandparents can’t understand what you are saying, and you can’t understand what they are saying. His father is often away from home and unreachable by phone. You guys can just contact me; I can tell you Xihong’s condition.” We would like to praise this lovable and respectable great-grandfather: his continued efforts gave Xiaoting and Xihong healthy bodies and happy lives, and his help made LRS’ job a lot easier!
Xiaoting is in third grade. Her family remembers, “Before having surgery, the child had to go to the hospital once every 20 days. In the four years since her surgery, she has never been to the hospital and rarely gets sick. Her colds can be cured with over-the-counter medication from the pharmacy.” Xiaoting changed a lot. She is no longer the little girl who held her great-grandfather’s hand the whole time. Now, she became her great-grandpa’s little walking stick. Although the two hands are still linked, the four years made her small hands stronger, able to support her great-grandfather!
There are 6 people in Xiaoting’s family. Her great-grandparents live in a different house, and Xiaoting, her grandmother, her father, and her brother live together. The two places are very close together. Xiaoting travels between her school, her great-grandparents’ home, and her own every day. Generally her grandparents won’t let her do hard work, just letting her sweep the floor or feed their cats and dogs. Xiaoting gives great joy to her great-grandparents. They look forward to her returning from school every day.
Xiaoting’s brother is 17 years old and a high school dropout. Her grandmother has had liver problems for many years, taking medicine to survive. Recently grandmother’s illness got worse. The doctor said she is in a late stage of her disease. Grandmother is hospitalized in town, and Xiaoting’s brother is staying with her. Xiaoting’s father cannot work away from home anymore and is weeding their land for planting corn.
Her father is just over 40 years old, but seems older than his actual age. The untimely death of Xiaoting’s mother came as a huge blow to him. During his years working in the city, he found another woman he liked. Because Xiaoting’s grandmother is in the hospital, this lady also came home to help. She hurriedly began preparing lunch once she saw Xiaoting is about to let out from school.
The family’s house was built when her mother was still alive. After the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, one of the rooms has a large crack, but Xiaoting’s father did not have the resources to fix it. Her father learned to replant seedlings after working for the past few years in the city and managed to pay back most of the family’s debt. Now grandmother’s illness is the family’s greatest worry. She lost her husband and her daughter during her middle age and brought up her two grandchildren alone. Now she is sick with a serious illness. Her life story is tragic.
There are 9 students in Xiaoting’s third grade class. Her school is far from home, around a 30-minute walk. The better-off families in the village all sent their children to school in the county seat or the closest town. The children who stayed are mostly children whose parents are away working, so the school has strict rules. The students have only half-an-hour for lunch everyday, going back to school in a hurry after finishing lunch. The school has a closed campus. Xiaoting’s great-grandfather does not want her to be late, so he sends her school in a battery-powered bicycle. Her over 80-years-old great-grandfather taking her to school calls for our admiration.
Xiaoting is an unfortunate child, losing her mother early and suffering from congenital heart disease, but she is at the same time very lucky. She has a grandmother who takes care of her, a great-grandfather who loves her and protects her, and Little Red Scarf’s care and support, helping her grow up healthily and able to go to school with her peers. Hopefully Xiaoting’s grandmother can get better soon, her great-grandfather can stay healthy, and Xiaoting can become more responsible and live happily with her father’s girlfriend.
Original Article Written by Ying Guan, translated by Allison Zhang, edited by Yanyan Zhang
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