How time flies. We are now ringing out the Lunar 2020 and ringing in 2021. It seems ages since Covid-19 first hit China in early 2020. It dawns on us that we are so vulnerable in the face of a pandemic threat. And what mattered most in the past year was to protect our family against this threat.
Love has been our most powerful shield. We have no idea how further this pandemic will go, but we believe love will never stop.
But at such troubled times, how will the forgotten children who are abandoned since day one of their life survive this pandemic? Who will protect them? Who will stay with them through these darkest moments?
That Little “Flower”
In August 2017, Rong Rong was admitted into Chunhui Care Home. The baby, not yet one year of age, suffered from limb joint contracture deformity and Tetralogy of Fallot (a kind of congenital heart condition). She was like a late autumn dead leaf, curly, withered and fragile. Based on her experience, Mama Yan guessed that the baby had to go through a succession of surgeries to survive. She would have to struggle very hard.
Yan saw Rong Rong slowly open her eyes, with a faint look that sought to live on. Yan touched her cheeks. She felt the baby was like a candle in the wind and, once you let go, it would die. She was determined to rekindle the baby’s hope for life.
Rong Rong in 2017
The day after Yan saw Rong Rong, she decided to help put her through a heart surgery. But the baby was too tender for the risk. As it turned out, the surgery didn’t go well. Rong Rong was hit by cerebral infarction and almost died on the operating table.
After the surgery, seeing Rong Rong attached to all kinds of medical tubes, Yan was struck by a pang of sharp grief. “What a hard time you’ve had, Rong Rong. You must survive,” Yan thought to herself.
In the following month, Yan stayed day and night with Rong Rong and nurtured her out of the life-threatening stage. She was discharged. But more struggles were waiting for her.
It took very intensive care to nurse the baby. She was not allowed to take in more than 1000 ml of moisture content. An excess intake would lead to edema and even endanger her life. Worse, anytime the baby cried out aloud, her already wounded heart would be overburdened.
“In the day, whenever she started to cry, I would pick her up into my arms. At night, once I heard her groan in pain, I would pat her softly…” Yan recalled those days in a calm and relaxed tone, though she might not have even one whole night’s sleep back in those days. With compromised immunity, the baby was more susceptible to infection, cold and fever. That year, Yan and Rong Rong stood together to combat a great many little viruses.
Under the loving care of Yan, Rong Rong got to recover from her first surgery. Her heart turned for the better, and she grew bigger. Although her deformed knees precluded her from standing and walking like typical children, with Yan around, she glowed with delight as if she had never had any difficult time. For every minute of every day, the girl and her mama Yan enjoyed sweet time together, the girl laughing hearty laughs, and Yan looking at her with loving smiles.
Rong Rong in 2018
In Nov 2018, Rong Rong received her second heart surgery. It was successful, but Rong Rong lost quite some weight. At the first sight of Yan, she ran into her arms and cried “mama, mama.”
At that moment, Yan was sure that Rong Rong had taken her as her own mom. Other mamas cared for her as well, but only when Yan was around, Rong Rong beamed bright smiles and kept murmuring “mama, mama”. She fixed her eyes on Yan to keep her in sight. Whenever another kid came over to Yan, she would lean her head against Yan, as if to declare “This is my mama, and you should never touch her.”
Funded by a loving supporter, Rong Rong went through a leg orthopedic surgery. Yan saw her clinic record read: “Right middle tarsal joint osteotomy + metatarsal aponeurosis + tendon lysis + Achilles tendon lengthening + Kirschner wire internal fixation + knee lysis”. Staring at this long string of medical glossary and picturing the killing pain that gnawed at Rong Rong, Yan felt as if a knife was piercing through her heart.
The graver challenge was that after the surgery, Rong Rong must learn to stand immediately so that the surgery would not go in vain.
The two-and-a-half year old, who was born with leg deformity, started to learn to stand for the first time, with the legs and feet that still hurt like hell. Yan knew how that pain was unbearable, even for an adult, but she made up her mind to tough up so Rong Rong would progress. She supported Rong Rong struggling to stand up. Rong Rong cried bitterly, and Yan shed tears too.
Yan spent every day helping Rong Rong with rehabilitation exercises. Her slim legs stood stiff on the floor, her arms held onto the bed, her chest and head lay on the bedside. It was stabbing pain. She had sweat all over, and shed floods of tears. She raised her head and looked pitifully at Yan saying: “Mama, it hurts!” Yan held back her tears and softly encouraged: “Rong Rong, You did a great job! You are on your feet now. Come on, baby. When you are able to walk, I will take you outside for yummy food…” At these words, Rong Rong stopped her tears and continued to practice. Yan was envisioning the girl’s bright future, and it was worth her every effort to fight for it.
Despite the huge pains she took, Rong Rong didn’t progress as expected. Her right leg relapsed.
The doctor used Ilizarov method with Rong Rong. Tensioned wires and half pins were transfixed to her lower leg bones and were also attached to external rings, thereby stabilizing the entire bone. Once again, she had to put up this hellish torture. The fixator would have to stay with her for 6-8 weeks. Every three days, the doctor adjusted the wires for optimal strength and stability. The wires writhed through the little girl’s skin, muscle and bones. It hurt so much that she almost passed out every time. She held Yan tight and refused to take a look at her legs. Her sweat and tears soaked Yan’s coat. Yan held her tight too, her heart bleeding for the girl.
Rong Rong in 2019
After several leg surgeries and a left hand procedure, Rong Rong’s limbs started to grow into normal arrangements. Nonetheless, she was still unable to walk independently and had to shuffle with support of a balance frame. Each step was followed by unspeakable agony, but Rong Rong stayed positive, because she knew her mama was always there for her.
In 2019, the three-year-old girl’s phased leg and left arm surgeries were completed. She braved all these challenges and torments. Although she was slow to speak, she was ready to smile, to other child patients, the doctors and nurses. Her smiles brightened the whole ward.
Sometimes when Yan was not around and Rong Rong was put under the care of other mamas, she would look unhappy and upset.
This cut to the heart of Yan. She had been mothering the girl as her own. But when she rehabilitated, she would be adopted and have her own permanent loving home. Yan was aware that Rong Rong needed parental love and deserved a bright future, but after going through so much together in the past endless agonizing days and nights, it wouldn’t be easy for them to part.
Rong Rong in 2020
In early 2020, the Covid-19 swept across China. The citizens had to stay indoors and businesses were suspended. But Chunhui mamas didn’t walk away from the children, not for a single moment. Critically ill children kept coming into Chunhui Care Home. Every Chunhui mama stood up to the challenge of caring for more children. The experienced mama Yan was assigned to children with more severe conditions. Rong Rong was put under the care of mama Yang at CCH. Now, she has transformed from a delicate baby into a caring “big sister” for the younger kids.
Rong Rong needed yet another left hand surgery. After that, she would function normally over time. Now, she was committed to rehabilitation exercises, practicing walking and using her left hand. The little sunshine girl became CCH’s pop star, bringing every one love and joy. Under nurturing care of Chunhui mamas, her life has blossomed, even beyond medical predictions. We all marvel that children like Rong Rong have far more potentials than we could imagine.
Rong Rong in 2021
“I’m four now”
Our gratitude goes to all of you who give so much attention and love to each of our little “flowers”.
Loving donors, supporters, volunteers, monthly donors, experts, professionals, stars, ambassadors of love, and guardians of Chunhui babies…
It’s the love for children that has brought us together. Let’s continue to join our hands and stay side by side all through 2021.