Harbin couple sacrifices time and money to help sick adopted child stand on his feet
HARBIN - A split-second decision to adopt a sick, abandoned baby has brought intense challenges, as well as untold joy, to a rural couple from Harbin.
Xing Tianyi, 8, the adopted son of Xing Dianwu(R) and his wife, Song Yafeng, exercises to mitigate his cerebral palsy. [China Daily]
For the past eight years, Xing Dianwu and his wife, Song Yafeng, from Acheng district of Harbin in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, have dreamed that their beloved adopted son could stand and walk.
Their son, Xing Tianyi, now 8, has struggled with cerebral palsy throughout his life. But today, due to the couple's loving care, he is standing and walking without difficulty, like other children his age.
Tianyi's improvement has been great, but he still has a long way to go to fully recover.
Before adopting Tianyi, the couple was living on a tight budget in Xinxing village of Acheng district.
Xing was a rickshaw driver and Song worked in a restaurant in Acheng, a district far from downtown Harbin. The two were supporting their daughter, who was 12 in 2002, the year Tianyi was adopted.
Their life changed on Dec 28 of that year, when Song paid a visit to her niece who was giving birth at a hospital. That day marked the revival of a dying infant and the beginning of the family's struggle against poverty and the child's illness.
"When I passed by the hospital hallway, I saw a couple of people circling around a red cloth on a bench with a crying baby," Song recalled.
"The red cloth was the only thing wrapping the kid in the winter cold and I was just worried he may be frozen to death on such a cold day," Song said. "Therefore, I took off my jacket to cover the baby and hurried to my niece's room upstairs."
After the visit, when Song made her way back through the hallway, she found the baby still crying there, all alone.
"I realized that the baby must have been abandoned," Song said. "It was the first time for me to see so little a baby of about 1 kg. Feeling pity for the poor child, I decided to take him home without a second thought."
The couple gave him the name of Tianyi, indicating the baby had come to the family out of heaven's will.
From that day, Song and her husband started the hard journey of fostering a premature infant with congenital defects.
"Tianyi only weighed 1.4 kg when I took him home, eating only a little and always feeling cold. I always carried him in my arms to keep him warm until the twelfth day when little Tianyi opened his eyes for the first time," the adoptive mother remembered.
The couple was fully devoted to caring for little Tianyi with their humble incomes, getting occasional help from warm-hearted people.
Song's parents and sister were also dedicated to the rearing of little Tianyi. Song's father, who is now about 80 years old, even rode a rickshaw to earn money for his adopted grandson, while Song's younger sister worked in a restaurant to cover Tianyi's medical treatments.
However, when he was eight months old, Tianyi showed no sign of starting to walk like other children of the same age.
"A neighbor running a massage parlor gave me 500 yuan ($75), which he said was donated to us by one of his customers, to get Tianyi a physical check in hospital," Song said.
Shocked by the diagnosis of cerebral palsy resulting from inborn hypoplasia, the couple was informed that there was slim hope that Tianyi would ever recover.
"Even if we have to spend all our money, we must give our son medical treatment," Xing said to his wife, who fainted when she heard the doctor's news.
Since then, the couple has not given up hope for Tianyi's treatment, but the road has not been easy.
The year of 2003 was the most difficult in Song's memory. They sold their newly refurbished house in the village for 4,000 yuan to buy a medicine that was supposed to treat cerebral palsy, which turned out to be ineffective.
Running out of money and seeing no progress in their son's treatment, Song became desperate and even attempted suicide by swallowing some poison. Fortunately, she was rescued in time by neighbors and was successfully treated in the hospital.
Later, the couple's story was reported by the media, which resulted in more help from the government and warm-hearted people.
To earn money for her younger brother's medical treatment, the couple's daughter, Xing Xiaojuan, who is now 20 years old, dropped out of school at the age of 14.
Xiaojuan once earned 36 yuan in three days washing dishes for a restaurant. Song still clearly remembers what her daughter said six years ago: "Mom, the money is to buy milk powder for my little brother."
Now Xiaojuan is an apprentice in a song-and-dance duet troupe. "The 30 yuan she earns each day is totally saved for her brother," Song said.
For the past seven years, innumerable people have offered help to the family, Song said. The landlords of their apartment lowered the rent for the couple and even gave financial assistance to them.
Now, after three operations, Tianyi can stand and walk by himself, but has to keep practicing functional exercises to achieve full recovery.
If his improvement continues, he will be able to enroll in school with other children, Song said.
The young boy is thankful for the love of his family and all those who care for him.
"I wish someday I can earn enough money to buy dumplings for my parents who save every penny for me," he told China Daily.