I realized as I opened the computer just now that it's been almost a week since my last post! I'd wanted to write a little something every day, but there were too few hours in the days last week. Melissa is in Beijing now, taking a couple days to explore the sights there for the first time, before she heads home. I'm still here in Chengdu for a couple more days, wrapping things up and seeing friends.
I've also been responding to a number of emails we received last week. A number of NPR listeners wrote in after hearing Huang Meihua's story, anxious to find ways to help. Larry Guo, one of the volunteers with the group 512 Children, has copied me on his follow-up correspondence with these listeners. The group has been trying to find ways to get better prosthetics for Meihua and better care and is grateful for the outpouring of support from listeners.
One piece of good news is that it looks like Meihua now has a school to go to in the fall. The private Guangya International School in Dujiangyan has agreed to give her a full scholarship and a place for her and her family to stay. While this does not solve the problem of her medical care, her family is relieved to know that she'll be able to continue her education.
Larry emailed the other day to say he'd spoken to Meihua.
She just had a science exam the day before, and she was the second in the class. She was nagging about her little mistake that made her the second. I told them about the broadcast, the response. She was very happy and asked me to thank everybody.
On a related note, Melissa on Friday reminded me of the adult amputees we'd met a couple weeks ago at a rehabilitation center in Chengdu. Two men, both in their 40s, who'd lost both legs after being buried in rubble, much like Meihua. These men separately told us that the most difficult thing now is handling their children's grief over dad's injuries. Liu Rui told us he no longer attends his 7-year old daughter's school meetings and other activities - he wants to relieve some of the pressure she's feeling. When she cries, he comforts her by reminding her of all the people who died and telling her that he's the lucky one.
Liu Rui practices walking with his wife close behind.
Zhang Xin's 9-year old son also cried when he saw that dad's legs were gone. He told us his son wanted his dad to go swimming with him - something they used to do a lot - but Zhang had to break it to him that he could no longer swim. Dad also said he thought it'd be upsetting for the other swimmers to see someone without legs. At the same time, he told his son that whenever other kids ask, he should explain that his dad's injuries were caused by the earthquake, and that he's not some kind of a monster.
Unlike Meihua, these men are getting physiotherapy and were practicing walking under the supervision of therapists in Chengdu when we met them. We asked if we could take photos of them for our website. They said it was fine as long as we did not show their faces. Liu Rui told us he didn't want his daughter to go online and find anything that might upset her.