Guangxi student's bones brittle, but spirit strong

China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-10 09:59
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NANNING — Twelve years ago, Dong Qian, then a third grader, was found in her classroom lying on her stomach on a modified wheeled bed, her upper body supported by her elbows, struggling with a fractured leg in a cast.

Today, she remains steadfast in her determination to overcome life's challenges, having persevered through college using a wheeled bed, a wheelchair and crutches, with unwavering support from both her family and the schools she has attended.

Hailing from Lingchuan township, which is situated in Lingchuan county of Guilin city in South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, Dong suffers from congenital osteogenesis imperfecta, commonly known as brittle bone disease, a condition Chinese authorities classified as a rare in 2018.

She was diagnosed with the disease at age 3 after experiencing frequent bone fractures from minor falls. By the time she was 9, she had endured more than 10 fractures.

After undergoing bone surgery in 2012, her family constructed a trolley bed that they used to wheel her directly into the classroom whenever she sustained a fracture.

Since Dong began primary school, her mother, Li Guifang, has been by her side constantly, providing round-the-clock support. In those earlier years, whenever there were class breaks, she would protect her daughter from tripping or bumping into classmates.

Rather than risk Dong being potentially injured during the 5-kilometer journey between home and school, Li and Dong would stay overnight at school on weekdays. The school provided a teacher's dorm room, free of charge, for them to stay in.

In 2011, Dong's parents had to leave her to work at a railway construction site, so her 63-year-old grandmother took over as her constant caretaker.

Dong spent most of her primary school years in a wheelchair. From junior high school to college, she relied on crutches to get around. Despite these physical challenges, her academic performance remained unaffected.

"I didn't falter when hardships struck my family over the years, because I aimed to demonstrate that my capabilities were equal to anyone else's, and I aspired for the day when my parents could rely on me," Dong said.

Speaking previously about his daughter, Dong Huiling expressed the happiness and solace Dong Qian brought them when he and his wife were away working.

"While we were busy working at the construction site, she sent us caring messages," he said.

However, when reflecting on her health, he couldn't shake off his feelings of helplessness and frustration. "We've sought treatment from every hospital in Guilin and explored options across the country, only to discover there is no cure," he said, tears welling up.

Tragedy befell the family in 2022 with Dong Huiling's untimely death at age 46. He left behind Dong Qian, her mother and her younger sister.

"My mother was left alone to bear all the heavy burdens, and considering my health condition, I have to exert extra efforts to shield her from any future storms," Dong Qian said.

In the fall that year, she enrolled at Guilin Normal College. Upon learning about her disease, the college outfitted a special dorm room for her.

Dong returns home every weekend to spend time with her mother and sister, hoping to bring more laughter and warmth into their lives.

Looking ahead, she said she is determined to confront life's challenges head-on.

"I believe that fortitude comes from unwavering convictions, and a brighter future is attainable for those with strong minds."

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