Peng Yan: The only servicewoman in Nagqu

By Li Zheng
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 25, 2011
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When Peng Yan graduated from medical school in Chengdu 12 years ago, she was presented with a choice: stay in Sichuan at a higher-paying job at a big hospital or move to a less developed region for a challenging post at a smaller clinic.

Peng Yan [File photo]

Having recently joined the Party, Peng decided to take the challenge. She accepted a position as nurse at a small military hospital in the northern Tibetan prefecture of Nagqu.

“As a party member, I should work in the toughest region of China,” Peng said.

Peng is now the only servicewoman in Nagqu, where the average elevation – 4600 meters above sea level – has earned the area the nickname “roof of the world’s roof."

Peng is not the first servicewoman that Nakqu has ever seen. Dozens of servicewomen have done tours in the region. But due to altitude sickness, they choose to move after one or two years.

Peng has worked in the region for 12 years. She has been offered 14 chances to change jobs to a more comfortable level, but she has never changed her mind. Peng defies the common wisdom that women can’t stay in Nagqu.

Year after year, she lives in an adobe house that leaks rain in summer and is cold in winter. The first thing she sees every morning is a patina of dirt on her quilts. Peng said the environment was letting her down, but she remained steadfast in her sense of duty. “A Communist Party member should give priority to the people,” Peng said. “The tough environment is not enough to scare me off.”

In December 2005, Peng got behind the wheel to begin her commute as usual. When the car broke down halfway, she got out and walked with her medical kit on her back. Then the wind picked up, pushing her off balance and over the edge of a cliff. She clung to an icicle and climbed back up. Her fingers were frozen together. When she got to work, an assistant broke the ice on her hands with a stone. Ignoring the pain, she continued her round of visits with bleeding hands. Such cases are not rare.

In the winter of 1999, a sentry named Jiang Feng caught a persistent fever. Peng Yan came to his rescue. The low temperatures slowed the flowing of his intravenous drip, so Peng took off her coat to warm the infusion tube and peeled off her sweater to warm Jiang’s hand. The 19-year-old boy broke into tears. Up to now, Peng has made more than 25,000 visits, saving 42 seriously ill patients. She has helped women with difficult child deliveries and cured yaks. Her efforts have won her the trust of herdsmen, who thought the doctor from the Communist Party almighty. Peng never expected she, a common nurse, could be so helpful in northern Tibet. Goodness pays dividends. In Bian Ba’s house, Peng’s photo is surrounded by a piece of hada, which stands for the utmost respect for a person.

Peng had her daughter, Zhang Hanhan, in February 2004. She went back to work three months later. The second time Peng and her husband saw their daughter, the kid was old enough to run on her own. Due to their long separation, the kid reacted indifferently upon seeing her parents. When told that her parents had returned, she ran to pick up the phone she used to talk to her parents.

The most touching scene came when the kid was three. On her parents’ third visit home, the little girl ran out to the street after playing with the parents and shouted joyfully. It was not until then that she knew that she has her own loving parents. The little girl is now seven, but she has only spent less than 300 days with her parents. Besides Hanhan, the couple treat many orphans as their children.

The social welfare home of Nagqu has 35 Tibetan orphans. Some of them call Peng mommy; others aunty. Every Saturday morning Peng spends time with these lovely children teaching them, playing games with them. Tsering Wangmo, 9, likes to go to Peng’s home to eat dumplings and learn drawing. Adian Danzeng, 17, does well in his studies, despite suffering from tuberculosis. Peng has promised to pay for him to finish university. It’s not rare that Peng receives letters of appreciation from the orphans. Peng is their mother. Peng gives us an example of how to be a Communist Party member and servicewoman on the roof of the world’s roof.

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