The following post was written by our program staff in Gansu, China.
On April 23rd, Guan Ying and I arrived at the Minle Township in Yongdeng County, our last stop. We were here to visit a special patient, Little Ye. Little Ye is one of the patients fully funded by Little Red Scarf in 2010. He is the first congenital heart disease patient sent to Beijing for surgery, and his experience differentiates him from other LRS patients in the past. At that time of the surgery, Little Ye was only four. Since the time of his birth, his family has been in conflict on whether to borrow money for him to undergo surgery. Little Ye’s grandfather did not want his son and daughter-in-law to go into further poverty because of this disease. The family was already taking care of a paralyzed, bed-bound grandmother and a four-months old newborn. He believed that his son and daughter-in-law were still young, and if they gave up this child, they could perhaps have more children in the future. This child had an extremely severe and complicated case of congenital heart disease and even if he underwent surgery, the doctors said that there was still a great chance of death. Though the grandfather was trying to look out for the family's interest, Little Ye's father and mother did not lose out on hope and were determined to find a way to provide this surgery for their baby boy.
In June of 2010, Little Ye’s mother called the LRS assistance hotline. After receiving the call, our staff went to visit Little Ye. The family, consisting of six people, lived in three shabby rooms. Two people shared one bed. One was a paralyzed grandmother, and the other was a newborn, a two-month old baby. There was also a little, three-year old boy who was constantly carried around by family members. He could not walk on his own and had to have someone support him. There was a grandfather who sighed in despair and two distressed parents.
Through some coaxing from LRS staff, the grandfather finally agreed to have family members take Little Ye to Lanzhou for further examination and treatment. The results were startling for both Little Ye’s parents and the LRS staff – Little Ye’s condition was so severe that the hospital in Gansu could not operate on him. Only large hospitals in Beijing or Shanghai could do so. LRS staff began contacting hospitals in Beijing for Little Ye. On July 15th, Little Ye and his father and mother went on a train to travel to Beijing.
There was a three-month long wait before the surgery before the operation could be scheduled. During this time, Little Red Scarf staff provided psychological support for their family. His mother said that the suffering she experienced over the three months had drained the life out of her. However, she claimed that she "wouldn't know what she would have been like without the support of LRS staff".
On October 9th, 2010, Little Ye underwent surgery. The operation took seven hours. When Little Ye entered the operation room, his father began smoking with his head down. Little Ye’s mother said that looking at his father smoking cigarette after cigarette made her feel like time stopped. She grabbed the cigarette from Little Ye’ father and joined him to make the time pass faster. It was her first time smoking and she did not know how to smoke, but did so anyways. In seven hours, Little Ye’s mother smoked five packs of cigarettes on her own.
The well-known cardiologist Dr. Liu Yunlong performed the operation, and it was a complete success. When Dr. Liu met with the family, he told Little Ye’s mother, “I don’t know if it’s because of my superior technique or because Little Ye’s is very lucky, but the surgery went extremely well.”
From the operation room to the ICU to the regular care unit, when Little Ye’s parents saw him again, it was finally time to leave the hospital and go home. His mother said that their experience was like what happens in a movie.
Four years have passed since we last saw Little Ye. Our hearts were filled with expectation when visiting him again.
At 10:30am, we arrived at the place the family rented near Little Ye’s school. Little Ye’s family is from the mountains, where there are no schools, so all the children need to go to the school in the town near where they live. Families rent rooms near the village so their children can receive a decent education. The parents accompany their children from the time their kids enter elementary school.
When we arrived it was almost noontime. Little Ye’s mother said that he was about return from school. We were waiting for Little Ye in the schoolyard, and we saw a handsome little boy walking towards us from afar. Is this Little Ye? With a tall, healthy body, he was really different from the little boy who needed the help of adults to even walk. His mother smiled as she told us that that was Little Ye and that Little Red Scarf gave her such a healthy and handsome son.
We were so surprised. If we had not seen him in person, we would never have recognized the little boy who needed surgery four years ago. We asked Little Ye if he could participate in sports at school. Apparently, there were times when Little Ye had to inform his teacher about his condition, but regular physical exercise is not a problem. We asked him to walk a few step for us so we can take photos to serve as a memento. Little Ye started running when we asked him to walk, showing us that he is completely healthy.
When interviewing Little Ye, his mother began talking about the difficult period of time during which she tried to find a charity organization to support the surgery costs of her child. Because Little Ye’s grandfather was always against going through surgery they fought often and during the most severe fights, they invited all the villagers and the head of the village to serve as witnesses. Little Ye’s mother drafted a contract, which stated that if the surgery was successful, then she and her husband will continue to live together, but if the surgery failed, they would divorce. His mother said that ever since she found out that Little Red Scarf could support Little Ye’s surgery costs, she began preparing money for the trip and for Little Ye. When she began selling scrap iron from the house, Little Ye’s grandfather blocked the door and would not let customers enter.
We wanted to see how Little Ye’s wounds were recovering, so he lifted his shirt and showed us. We asked him if he looks at his wound often and if he is scared of them. His mother told us that he is not at all scared. At school, he often shows them off to his classmates and says that only heroes have them.
Little Ye’s mother has always been very slender. When Little Ye underwent surgery in 2010, his mother gave .45 kilograms of blood, and his father gave .2 kilograms of blood. His mother said that at the time, she just wanted to save her son, and did not think about anything else. After donating blood, she stayed in bed for two days and fainted once in the process. After that, she never got fat again. Even though now she eats two bowls of rice with every meal, her body is still very slender. Little Ye’s mother laughed as she said that now she doesn't need to diet anymore.
This is the inside of Little Ye’s family’s rental house in town. We went there in April, and there was a fire inside the stove. We talked to Little Ye’s mother and asked her about their family’s recent condition. We were so happy to hear that Little Ye’s father worked in the city for the past few years to pay back his child’s surgery costs and living expenses. He has paid most of the money back. Little Ye’s grandfather kept several sheep to help out with the family’s expenses and to pay for his wife’s treatment. There are now eight sheep and the family has begun to treat the grandmother's illness as a result. Now the grandmother can go to the bathroom on her own and sit outside to enjoy the sun. Seeing that Little Ye’s family is progressing day by day, we feel genuinely happy for them. Little Ye’s mother said, “Since Little Red Scarf helped us cure our child’s illness, if we do not work hard and try our best, we will not be able to face the kind people who helped us.”
Time passed very fast, it was time for Little Ye to go back to school. We also had to go back to Lanzhou. We walked Little Ye to school. The boy did not stop hopping and running the entire way. His mother told us that everything is different now that his body is healthy.
We wish all the best for Little Ye. We also hope that his hardworking family will have better and better lives. We also hope our Little Red Scarf Congenital Heart Disease Project will be able to help more impoverished families, to help more children recover, to help smiles reappear on their faces, and to help them start new lives.
Original article by Yunyu Jie, Translation by EV Intern Allison Zhang
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