The remarkable Chinese retiree giving her disabled granddaughter the gift of happiness

08-May-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A girl in northern China who was not expected to live past childhood has grown into a happy, versatile teenager thanks in large part to the unstinting care of her grandmother.

Liu Xuannuo was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, when she was 18 months old and her family were told that the child would not survive beyond the age of three, the news app Jinyun News reported on Saturday.

ALS is a progressive disease that affects the motor neurons of the spinal cord and causes paralysis and death. The ALS Association, a US non-profit group, puts the average life expectancy of an ALS patient at about two to five years from the time of diagnosis. However, physicist Stephen Hawking lived with the disease for more than five decades, dying aged 76 last year.

Since the diagnosis, Xuannuo has had stem cell therapy each summer in a hospital in Shenyang, Liaoning province, helping to delay symptoms.

But the treatment in China is experimental and expensive, with each transplant costing anywhere up to 500,000 yuan (US$74,250), according to various online medical advice services.

Told that the disease was incurable, Xuannuo’s grandmother, Zhang Ruixin, volunteered to take over care of the child so the parents could work to pay for medical treatment, the report said.

Since then, Zhang has been a constant supportive presence in her 15-year-old granddaughter’s life, living with her in a school dormitory in Wuqiang county, Hebei province.

Xuannuo uses a wheelchair to move around the school but Zhang is there to help her sit in a regular chair during class and lie down during breaks.

The teen is a hit with her classmates, who say she is outgoing and easy to get along with. “She’s amazing, very good at study. Whenever we have a question we ask her. She sings very well, and we always suggest her as a candidate when there is a speech contest at school,” a classmate was quoted as saying.

Health permitting, Xuannuo and Zhang also travel the country during the school holidays, going as far afield as Guilin in southern China’s Guangxi region.

“I’m happy every day. I’m happy either when I study at school or go travelling,” Xuannuo was quoted as saying.

Zhang said: “We are tired but happy. I want her to experience the happiness of living, like every normal person, so she didn’t come to this world in vain.”

The grandmother said she was surprised by the attention her care had attracted but agreed to “tell the story between us to encourage others”.

Zhang’s biggest wish now is to remain healthy. “I want to keep taking care of her, leaving this world after her,” she said.


Category: China

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