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Love Grants Dying Woman Hope of Life

Luo Nanying, a 29-year-old mother suffering from leukaemia, will at last receive an operation that may save her life, thanks to money donated by the public touched by letters she wrote to her son that were printed in a newspaper.


Doctors at the First Hospital of Ningbo in east China's Zhejiang Province are preparing for the operation later this month, doctor Ouyang Guifang told China Daily yesterday.


Ouyang, who will be in charge of the operation, said that if all goes well the bone marrow transplant may be life-saving, although there is always risk involved with such procedures.


The probability of success is 70 percent, she added. But without the transplant Luo could die at any moment.


Luo is a teacher at a junior high school based in Gaodian Town, Ledu County of western China's Qinghai Province.


She was diagnosed with chronic leukaemia early this year and went to seek treatment in Ningbo, a coastal city in east China's Zhejiang Province, in March.


Leukaemia affects white blood cells, which fight infections. The most effective way to treat the cancer is bone marrow transplant.


Compared to most leukaemia patients that find it difficult to have a suitable blood donor for the transplant, Luo is lucky.


Doctors said her sister's blood is a perfect match.


But the cost of the operation, which is nearly 600,000 yuan (US$73,000), has prevented her from potentially extending her life.


As a teacher whose monthly salary is only dozens of US dollars, it would take almost 60 years for her to earn enough to cover the hospital bill.


In a country where the medical insurance system is so underdeveloped that at least 70 per cent of rural residents are not covered, Luo would have to pay the majority of the fee.


She decided to give up on the operation because she did not want to leave a heavy economic burden on her only son Peng Peng, who is 3 years old.


Luo had already spent all of her family's money on treating her illness. But she really wanted to leave something valuable to her son.


Finally, she decided to write letters as inheritance.


"My dear son, as you can read this letter by yourself, I probably have left you and the world. I will write letters to you, so you can read them on your birthday every year," Luo said in the first letter.


"My dear son, today is your 20th birthday. Congratulations, you have finally grown up."


"I hope you can forgive your mummy who gave up treatment and left you as you were only 3 years old only because she hopes you can lead a happy life with my love, and without any debt," Luo said.


She had written six letters while in hospital, and had finally decided to go back to Qinghai, when she spotted a call for articles and letters written to children in the local Ningbo Evening News.


So she posted her letters to the newspaper on June 26.


Her letters were soon published, and immediately moved the city with a population of 7 million.


Hundreds of residents rushed to donate money at stations on the streets, in schools, in the hospital, and even at the newspaper's offices.


They sent delicious food, clothes and traditional Chinese medicines with their sympathy.


"I just want to keep the mother alive for little Peng Peng" is the most frequent reason people give as they donate.


In the week after the letters were printed, residents donated at least 600,000 yuan (US$73,000), Ningbo Evening News reports enough to pay for the operation.


Among more than 2,000 donors, including children and senior citizens, able-bodied and disabled people, 80 per cent did not leave their names or telephone numbers.


"I am so touched that I live in tears and an ocean of love every day now," Luo said in a letter to all citizens of Ningbo.


"I have never made any contribution to your city, but you gave me so much support and love," she said in her letter in the local newspaper.


"It is the spirit of the mother, who encourages her son to lead a happy life with her letters, although she has to give up life, that moves me so much," Zhang Yongxiang said.


Zhang, 82, is the director of the Youth Concern Committee under the Ningbo municipal government.


He donated 2,000 yuan (US$240), about two thirds of his monthly salary.


"She is so young and still has a long way to go. We should save her life for her son, her family, and for society," Zhang said.


He noted the government has called on all people and governments to build a harmonious society.


"We should not only depend on the government's financial support for a better life and building a harmonious society because our country is still not rich enough," he noted.


Everyone from all walks of life, rich or poor, should devote more to the welfare of society and make the country full of health and love, he added.


"Luo's case has set a very good example of love, which will encourage more people to love others," Zhang said.


But Luo's story is a rare case, said Wang Rupeng, secretary-general of the Chinese Red Cross Foundation.


The majority of the at least 4 million leukaemia sufferers, half of whom are children, simply have to wait for death, Wang said yesterday.


There are about 30,000 to 40,000 new cases of leukaemia in China every year.


Usually only those lucky enough to be reported by media receive the support and money necessary for their treatment, Wang said.


For a long time there has not been a special foundation to help people in despair.


Early this month, a father from Beijing tried to commit suicide to donate his organs, and therefore raise money for his son who suffers from leukaemia.


Fortunately the father was saved and donations were collected for his son with the help of Wang's foundation and the media.


Following this case Wang's foundation set up the Little Angel Fund to help poor children with leukaemia.


Up to now, only about 100,000 yuan (US$12,000) has been pooled by the foundation.


"It is only the very beginning and the money is not enough to save many sick children," Wang said.


So Wang has appealed to everyone to pay more attention to leukaemia patients in China and do what they can for them in the future.


China desperately needs to add more names to its bone marrow donation database.


Presently, the national database has less than 300,000 entries, but at least one million records are needed to really make a difference, Wang said.


(China Daily July 14, 2005)

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