The daily routine in Zhu Ling's family
Retirement should be a carefree time. After a lifetime's work, those in the autumn of their years have earned the right to take things easy and enjoy life. However, that's not the case for Zhu Ling's parents. If anything, their lives are now harder than ever before.
Zhu Mingxin, 72, and her 73-year-old husband Wu Chengzhi, begin their busy "work schedule" at 7 am every day.
Their shabby apartment, decorated in the style of the last century, has become a mini-clinic; the elderly couple clears sputum from their daughter's lungs, hook her up to an oxygen cylinder and massage her limbs. They've performed these tasks so often that they move like professional medical staff.
"Practice makes perfect," Zhu Mingxin joked bitterly.
Having shrunk to just one-third normal size, Zhu Ling's lungs function poorly, are vulnerable to inflammation and are flooded with sputum. "So, every day we begin by cleaning out her windpipe - she had a tracheotomy in 2011," said Zhu Mingxin.
Zhu Ling can still respond to external stimuli, but is unable to express herself. Her parents believe she can remember her life right up until the day she was poisoned 19 years ago. "We can tell she thinks she is still in her 20s, although she's so much older now," said her mother. "She thinks she is just sick, not damaged."
Zhu Ling's daily exercise used to entail hours of practice at standing upright and raising her legs onto the bed. But since the tracheotomy, she is incapable of raising either leg. Instead, her father lifts her into the wheelchair, which her mother pushes before bringing it to an abrupt halt and allowing the force of gravity to help the patient stand upright.
Every day, Wu Chengzhi suffers from the exertion of helping his daughter stand, and drops of sweat bead his forehead.
"Things used to be so different," said Zhu Mingxin. "Before the tragedy all she brought me was joy. Her life would have been so promising if her plans had worked out. But now all that is lost. There's nothing left."
Zhu Mingxin's almost forlorn hope is that medical science will improve enough to provide life-changing treatment for her daughter.
Source: China National Radio
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