Wen Jianlin, a 15-year-old boy from Gansu Province, has been living in pain for the past five months.
It stems from seven operations he has received in the People's Liberation Army's No. 85 Hospital in the city after his right heel got cut off and his legs injured while working in a Jiangsu Province mill that made inferior cotton from used quilts.
The hardship of the boy, however, hasn't ended as the mill owner has sold the factory and vanished after sending him to hospital, giving him 50,000 yuan (US$6,024) as medical expense.
The minor's legs were crushed by a quilt-tearing machine while he was working in the Taicang-based factory in March, less than a month after he was hired.
"I was cheated. He said he could show me a trip to Jiangsu," the boy said.
Born in a poor farmer's family in China's northwestern region, Wen said he had never traveled and thought Jiangsu was located next to his province. He willingly went with his friend without telling his family.
His father, Wen Zhijun, now lives in his son's ward to take care of him.
"I have contacted his boss many times, but he said he had sold that factory and returned to his hometown in Zhejiang Province," the farmer said.
Dr Li Yukun said there is still some money left in the account, but it was uncertain how many operations the boy would need to recover his feet functions.
An X-ray taken on March 28 when the boy arrived at the hospital showed his right heel totally fractured.
"The right foot's skin was black. We have taken skin from other parts for transplant and fixed up the fractured heel," Li said.
Shanghai Daily called mill owner Ye Tongwen Thursday with contact numbers he left with the boy. The person who answered refused to confirm his identity and hung up.
According to doctors, Ye gave a fake age and name for the boy at the hospital.
"He said I must use a new name and tell others I was 19," Wen said. It is illegal to hire people under 16 to work in China.
(Shanghai Daily August 20, 2004)