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Putting the pieces back together again

By Luo Wangshu in Chongqing | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-13 08:33

Putting the pieces back together again 

A therapist helps treat Li Xinyuan in Beijing in June, 2014.

Chongqing toddler who was savagely beaten by a girl in an elevator in November 2013 is still on the long road to recovery

A family in Chonqing is still struggling to pick up the pieces, more than three years after a brutal attack that left their 18-month-old son with life-changing injuries.

Li Xinyuan, also known as Yuanyuan, was savagely beaten by a 10-year-old girl in November 2013.

The girl, surnamed Li, snatched Yuanyuan from his grandmother as the older woman exited an elevator carrying a stroller.

Once the elevator doors closed, security footage showed Li repeatedly hitting the child, who was later found lying on the ground outside the building, unconscious and covered in blood.

His skull was fractured, as was his right eye socket, and his injuries were so severe that he had to undergo brain surgery.

The attack left Yuanyuan mentally impaired and unable to walk without a limp.

Now 4-and-a-half years old, he attends kindergarten, with plans to start elementary school next fall.

"We are more careful than before, especially when his grandmother takes him out - we remind her to be more careful," said Li Shuyong, Yuanyuan's father.

"He is recovering well. He can walk, run and jump like the other boys, but his left hand is very weak and cannot grasp. He also walks with a limp and needs a new left shoe almost every week because it becomes worn down."

Like many children his age, Yuanyuan likes to carry his parents' bags to prove he is "a big boy".

But he only ever uses his right hand and is reluctant to even wave hello using his left.

"He is a happy child, but he does not know what happened to him exactly and we are not ready to tell him yet," his father said.

The family avoids speaking about the topic at home - particularly Yuanyuan's mother Zeng Yan, who just wants to put the tragedy behind her.

To make matters worse, the girl who carried out the attack was never formally punished, as she had not yet reached 14 at the time, the age of criminal responsibility in China.

Her parents were ordered to pay 1 million yuan ($145,400) compensation to Yuanyuan's family, while an additional 1 million yuan was raised by netizens to pay for the boy's treatment in Chongqing and Beijing.

The family has already spent about 1 million yuan of that on the boy's treatment and is planning to use the rest of the money for his education and future medical fees.

Yuanyuan's recovery has been "beyond expectations", according to doctors, but his family still worry.

"His future remains unknown. He seems like a normal child, but as parents we have our concerns," said Li, the father, who is unsure whether Yuanyuan will ever be able to enter mainstream education.

Every six months, the boy requires medical checkups in the form of a magnetic resonance imaging scan at hospital and must complete 40 minutes of physical therapy each day after school.

"The MRI scan is painless for him as he is usually given pills and falls asleep, but it is torture for me to accompany him every time. The machine is so noisy, even an adult could not bear it," Li said.

"He is also becoming more reluctant to undergo physical therapy as he gets older - he does not like to wear his leg braces at all."

In China, boys are traditionally seen as the ones to preserve a family's legacy, but Yuanyuan's parents are under no illusions of grandeur when it comes to their son's future.

Instead, their hopes are now pinned on his 7-year-old sister Yaoyao, a model first-grader who already won several awards and attends extra-curricula courses, including starting piano lessons last year.

"We are very strict with Yaoyao, she even said once: 'you only love my brother'," Li, the father said.

"But we have to focus on Yuanyuan."

 Putting the pieces back together again

Li Xinyuan receives treatment in Beijing in June, 2014.Photos By Wang Jing / For China Daily

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