When Hope Turns to Loss
When LWB first started our Unity Medical Fund, it was with the hope that we could actually prevent children from becoming orphaned. Through our medical work in China, we had learned that many parents abandon their children born with medical needs when they are unable to pay for the surgeries their children need. Our LWB managers had been approached multiple times by pleading rural parents who didn’t have the funds to get their child admitted to the hospital for care. They would frantically say, “we will give you our child if you will just save her life.” There is only one word to describe what I saw in too many rural parents’ eyes when they could not afford to help their child: desperation.
As a mom to seven, I of course have had many times where my own children were sick, and a few very specific times when my kids were seriously ill. Some of you might remember when one of my sons suffered a severe head injury, with two areas of bleeding in his brain. I remember feeling like I couldn’t take a complete breath. My heart didn’t seem to be able to fully beat as I waited for news. And so as we get in the applications from desperate families asking for us to provide life saving surgery for their children, I always think of what the parents are feeling, knowing their child needs surgery to survive, but knowing they have no financial means to provide his or her care.
I have been blessed to have been able to meet some of these families in person during my time in China. I vividly remember one rural father who waited for me an entire day so he could express his thanks, which I kept trying to tell him wasn’t necessary. We had provided heart surgery for his two year old son who was critically ill, and he was so in love with this little boy that his feelings took up the entire room. The father could not write, and so he had come in person to tell me what it meant to their family to know their son would now grow up healthy. He kept telling me how smart his little boy was and how he was determined his son would get an education so he would have a better life. It was one of those moments that was humbling beyond belief.
This past year our Unity Fund has helped 26 families out of their desperation. And we have celebrated and given thanks as these families left the hospital with their now healed children who have been given a second chance.
This last week, however, I have had to face the reality that sometimes our very best intentions are not enough. We came to know Fu Xiang, whose parents are extremely poor farmers in Shaanxi province, surviving on less than 75 cents a day. His mom has cerebral palsy, and when they gave birth to a little boy with heart disease, they knew they had no possible way of healing him. At age five, Fu Xiang was tiny and weak, but he had a smile that simply shone. His parents had heard that there was a foreign charity who would provide help to children in need, and so they left their farm to travel to the city to apply. When they were told that we would first need to raise the funds for their child’s heart operation, they said they would just wait next to the hospital for news, no matter how long it took. You see, they had finally been given renewed hope that their little boy would get his second chance – and so they said they could not leave until they heard whether or not we could accept him for surgery.
School children in the Netherlands heard about Fu Xiang and helped to raise the funds for his operation, and the JOY on his mother’s face when she heard he would finally receive medical care was palpable. On December 27th, Fu Xiang went into a seven-hour surgery and was then moved to intensive care. As a mom, I sat that night and knew in my heart all of the emotions that his mother was going through while she waited and watched him through the ICU window, hooked to so many machines. Our volunteer team and supporters said so many prayers that his recovery would go well.
And then we got the terrible news that he had passed away in the night.
It is hard for me to even think about, because I keep going back to his mom and dad – and the hope they had that finally their precious son would be healed. And as a mom, that feeling is too intense for me to fully take in, and it hurts so much to know there is nothing now that can be done to bring Fu Xiang back to them. I wish I was there with them. I wish I could take his mom’s hands and hold her and tell her how sorry all of us are that her little boy didn’t make it. I wish I had some magic way to bring her comfort. But I know that isn’t possible at this moment, as she has lost the dearest thing in her life — her only child.
This week I have asked myself again and again the age old question of why bad things happen to such kind and good people, and why one life is spared when another is taken. I of course don’t have the answers. For some reason, we had been able to help 25 other families walk out of the hospital in joy, but Fu Xiang’s family had to leave in complete sorrow. We are heartbroken for them.
And still the applications keep coming, and rural farming families keep contacting us with the same desperation of wanting their child to have a chance at life. One family are cave dwellers, another somehow manage to live and eat on just 50 cents a day. But they all share an agony of wanting to help their child find healing. And so as we continue moving forward with our Unity Fund, we will never forget those whose lives ended too soon. If anything, the terrible loss of a child like Fu Xiang makes us even more committed to keep as many families as possible together. We can never lose sight of the power of hope or give up on the belief that love does ultimately win in the end. Even when we face those moments of sorrow that we can’t even begin to understand.
~Amy Eldridge, Executive Director