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Chen Yuanwei, a Devoted Vet

If Chen Yuanwei, who was a veterinarian in Xinjiangkou Town, Hubei Province, is still alive, he should be 58 years old this year. However, Chen died of cardiomyopathy suddenly, which was elicited by fatigue. Since the Chinese mainland confirmed the first case of bird flu outbreak in Dingdang Town, Long'an County of southwestern China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on January 27, Chen Yuanwei had been working on the frontline till the end of his life.

On February 6, 2004, Jia Chunbo, director of the Xingjiangkou Veterinary Center, gave an emergency call to Chen, vice director of the center, and told him that the deaths of poultries in Hehuachong village, which is located several kilometers away from Xingjiangkou Town, was confirmed as bird flu. Jia asked Chen to organize people to vaccinate other poultries in the area as soon as possible.

Chen immediately got connection with more than 20 relevant workers in the county and had the vaccination equipments and medicine prepared. Chen was ready to go to the frontline to fight against bird flu.

As set at the meeting on Xinjiangkou Town's poultry vaccination, the more than 20 veterinarians were divided into three groups for three different villages. Chen led his six teammates to the farthest spot of Qingling village, where he kept on working without rest until February 8.

At the night of February 6, Zhou Yonghai, the village head of Qingling village, noticed that Chen Yuanwei was trembling all the time though he worn a thick cotton-padded coat. But when Zhou asked Chen to take a break, Chen said, "How can I take a break at this moment while all my teammates are working?" Chen continued to give vaccination to the village's poultries till five o'clock the next morning.

During the daytime, Chen received some villagers' report that some pigs in Chengjiachong village died suddenly. Chen immediately went to the village and investigated the reason of death, working until 19 p.m.

According to Chen's wife, Chen went to sleep earlier that day without taking off his clothes. In the midnight Chen's snore woke his wife. She tried to wake Chen up, but failed. The poor woman cried for she realized Chen had passed away -- without leaving a single word for her.

Hearing of Chen's death, many villagers cried.

Chen Qibiao, a villager from Tongxingqiao village, rushed to Chen's house while hearing the sad news. He said he just wanted to do something to pay back for what Chen Yuanwei had done for him. "I will never forget the day when three pigs in my house became sick and sluggish. When I arrived at Doctor Chen's house, Chen was having a transfusion in bed. After I told him what had happened, he immediately stopped the transfusion and followed me to my house. He was so weak that he had to lean against the wall to support himself when he injected the three pigs with trembling hands. Knowing that my poor family could not afford the medical fees, he always treated my animals free of charge."

His colleagues regarded him as their father.

Jia Chunbo, 24 years younger than Chen, is one of Chen's colleagues. He said he regarded Chen as his farther. "I feel that Chen is not passed away," he said. Jia was transferred from his original job to Xinjiangkou County, 30 km away from home. Chen invited Jia to stay with his own family. "Everyday when I went back to the house, Chen would make tea for me and prepare bath water for me."

Another colleague of Chen said that it seemed to him that the Xingjiangkou Veterinary center was a big family, and Chen was the patriarch.

Chen left nothing to his family but debts of several thousand yuan.

Actually Chen's family is very poor. There is no household electric appliance in his house. For about 10 years Chen had not bought a new coat.

After Chen's death, his family wanted to dress him with a decent coat for his last trip, but they could not find one. Seeing this situation, three of his apprentices, trying hard to hold back their tears, rushed out of the house and brought back a new coat for their teacher.

Yet, Chen loved books very much. He bought hundreds of books about medicine and veterinary science. Those books are the only valuable items in his house.

While clearing up Chen's personal belongings in the office, his son found many medical records hidden at the bottom of the chest, which recorded clearly that Chen had suffered several diseases, including stomach perforation, pulmonary tuberculosis, heart disease and etc.

Chen's wife whimpered: "He never said anything to us about his job. He even told me nothing about his health, for not wanting me to worry about him."

Chen was strict with his family. He would be angry if he found his wife back home earlier from work. "You should go to work earlier and come back home later," he always told her.

Chen Peng, the only son of Chen and his wife, said he seldom got a chance to chat with his father. "He was strict with me. When I didn't want to further my education after I graduated from junior high school, my dad forced me to go to high school. He borrowed money to send me to university after I failed in the university entrance examinations. Now I know what he did was for my own good."

(China.org.cn by Wu Nanlan, March 22, 2004)

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