For a 16-year-old lad who enjoys playing basketball, one can only imagine the sense of shock and loss at having to have a leg amputated, and the resulting physical pain.
But Tang Lei, a young survivor of China’s devastating earthquake, seems in bouncy spirits as he propels himself ahead on his crutches, with his mother beside him. They are on their way to see if his wound has healed sufficiently to fit an artificial leg.
“I still practice basketball shots,” he says, when asked how he passes the long months in hospital, even though he needs to either hop around or ride in a wheelchair.
Deep in the earthquake zone of Sichuan Province, the Red Cross hospital for traditional Chinese and western medicine in the city of Deyang, was full of patients in tents during the weeks after the disaster.
Marching up and down a ramp of stairs, pushing legs up and down and kneading atrophied muscles, a couple of dozen people, including children, are hard at work in the rehabilitation room inside the hospital building. The hospital is still the main centre for treating thousands of survivors left physically disabled by the earthquake.
Some survivors are facing emotional and physical pain after losing their limbs due to the earthquake. But many are still looking positively into the future.
Tip of the iceberg
This vital hospital may still be standing, but its infrastructure was battered by the disaster. “Our most urgent need is to replace three vital pieces of equipment – an ultrasound machine, a biochemical analysis system and an X-ray machine – which were all damaged,” says Dr Dai Bojun, vice-director of the Red Cross hospital.
But the equipment, with a cost of about £246,000, is only the tip of the iceberg. “People around the earthquake zone will need continuing care and assistance for years to come in order to regain their resilience. So the facilities that they have here need to be expanded and improved,” says Dr Jeya Kulasingam, a health and psychological support delegate with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
“We need to address both the physical and psychosocial needs as part of an integrated approach to helping rebuild communities affected by the earthquake,” says Dr Jeya. That often includes helping with the most practical issues, such as getting survivors to the hospital for follow-up care if they have transport difficulties.
This story was provided by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Read more stories from survivors of the earthquake