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Superheroes Without Capes

When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me. ~Fred Rogers

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In October, I traveled to China for Love Without Boundaries. While I saw many wonderful things and met some amazing children, I have to say what made the biggest impression on me were the realities of being a caregiver for the children we send to the hospital.  Whenever we hear about an urgent baby needing medical help, we will say “Move the baby to hospital!”  We frequently forget, however, that moving a child means a caregiver is about to work very, very long hours in less than ideal circumstances to make sure that baby finds healing.

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The first stop on my trip was in Shanghai to visit Children’s Hospital of FuDan University (CHFD), one of the top children’s hospitals in China.  CHFD sees over 2 million outpatients annually.  Over the years I have seen many photos of our caregivers at a child’s bedside.  However, seeing it in person is a completely different story.  If there is enough space on the ward for the child to get a bed, the beds are child-sized and usually there is just one very small chair beside the bed.  What really amazed me, even though I knew it from my work, is just how CROWDED Chinese hospitals are.

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People are literally everywhere — waiting in lines to get appointments, to pay for procedures, and to get a bed for their child.  It is a sea of activity. During extremely busy times, caregivers and children line the hallways. When wards are full, children are often put into beds in the halls. Most wards have 6-8 beds, and this is where the caregiver and child stay 24 hours a day often for weeks on end.

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The caregivers provide all the care and feeding for the child and themselves and even wash clothing by hand.  Sometimes the caregiver will try to get some rest by climbing into the bed with the child—a tight squeeze to be sure.  And even if they can manage to lay down, there is a lot of noise with so many children hurting and not feeling well.

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When I left the hospital, I already knew these nannies were pretty amazing people, but then I took a train from Shanghai to Hefei.  If you have traveled by train in China, you know that train stations are often very crowded and you have to do everything yourself.  By the time I had wrestled my suitcases through security, up and down stairways, and onto the train, I had worked up a pretty good sweat. 

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It was then that I realized that the majority of our caregivers taking babies for surgery travel by train themselves, often very long distances…while carrying their belongings and of course, often a very sick child.

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And still they love, and nurture, and worry about these precious children before themselves.

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In my book, they are true heroes.

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~Kate Finco, Chief Operations Executive for LWB

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