Rescue & Aid

Offering milk of human kindness

By Zhang Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-04-28 07:29
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Offering milk of human kindness
Zhang Shuying (standing), a 25-year-old nurse at Qinghai Kangle Hospital in Xining, was a savior to Kunlek Palwang, a Tibetan mother, and her little daughter. [ZHANG YAN / CHINA DAILY] 
XINING - Unrelenting cries from the 4-month-old girl filled the hospital ward.

The young earthquake survivor hadn't been fed for 30 hours, and she was refusing offers of infant formula from doctors and nurses.

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The normally breast-fed baby wanted her Tibetan mother, but her mom was recovering from a head injury and her body was too weak to produce milk.

So a young nurse stepped forward and, after getting the OK from mom, offered the child milk from her own breasts.

The baby immediately stopped crying and desperately suckled out of starvation

"It was very natural. All mothers would have made the same decision I did," said Zhang Shuying, a 25-year-old nurse at the general surgical department in Qinghai Kangle Hospital in Xining, the provincial capital of Qinghai.

Once she was full, little Tsering Chodron looked at Zhang with big bright eyes, smiled, waved her little hands and played for a while in Zhang's arms, then fell asleep.

"I didn't think much about it at that moment. As a new mother, I had breast milk. When I heard the baby crying out of hunger, I felt so sad and just wanted to feed her," said Zhang, who has a 4-month-old boy at home.

Over the next five days, Zhang became a temporary mother for the little girl, feeding her every day, and taking care of her when she had time.

"Zhang is a great woman who saved my baby's life," said mom Kunlek Palwang, who was recovering from a brain concussion and a crushed spine. "She is my daughter's second mother and my family is really grateful."

Kunlek Palwang's husband, who broke a collarbone and had to undergo an operation, was also in the hospital, where they had been transferred two days after the 7.1 magnitude quake struck Yushu on April 16.

In the days following the quake, 37 earthquake victims were transferred to Kangle hospital, most seriously injured.

Zhang worked 11 hours a day and sometimes neglected meals, busily arranging the wards, cleaning and wrapping the wounded, giving injections and putting drips on patients.

After a 40-minute bus trip home, she would arrive around 8 pm, exhausted, with her own baby still waiting to be fed.

Meanwhile, under great stress she was producing less breast milk, so she resorted to using milk powder to feed her own son at night.

When her son developed an allergic reaction that caused a red rash all over his body, Zhang's husband took him to the hospital.

During that trip Zhang's husband - surnamed Yu - saw the Tibetan baby for the first time.

"Compared with the other babies, she needs more care right now. I support my wife," Yu said.

Zhang's son has recovered after taking medication.

Now, with her health returning, Kunlek Palwang can feed her baby her own breast milk. Her husband has had a successful operation, and they will be discharged from the hospital in 10 days.

"We will always keep in touch with her," said Kunlek Palwang with tears running down her cheeks. "Our Tibetan and her Han families will always be one family."