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In Search of a Cure for the Dreaded Parkinson’s Disease

At the young age of only 37 years old, Wu Xiaodong suffers from the dreadful Parkinson’s disease. His father is tormented by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease, while his mom is diabetic…

Volunteer Liao Huiling aiding Wu Xiaodong (left) in his walking practice. (Photo credit: Tzu Chi Taiwan)

Paving the Path of Long-Term Care

Since 2010, Tzu Chi volunteer in Shanghai, Liao Meizhen, has been leading a team of Tzu Chi volunteers from Baoshan District, Shanghai, in doing recycling work in the community on every second Thursday of the month. The sincerity and dedication of the Tzu Chi team in bringing the message of environmental protection to the people in the community touched the heart of the local community leader, Secretary Zhu. Thus, in the following year, he dedicated this day as “a day of service” to the people in the community; this move aptly aligns with the team’s monthly recycling efforts.

Secretary Zhu has developed a deep trust in Tzu Chi’s volunteers, such that when he came across the hardships of 68-year-old Wu Yijie and his family, he immediately referred this family to the Tzu Chi team in Baoshan for further follow-ups. After receiving Mr Wu’s case from Secretary Zhu, the Tzu Chi team quickly arranged an initial visit.

Through the visit, the team discovered that the elderly Wu suffered from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (a neurodegenerative disease), and had been bedridden for 12 long years under the watchful care of his wife, Mdm Xu Yu Ming. But Mdm Xu herself has been battling with chronic diabetes for over ten years, and their only son Wu Xiaodong, a graduate of Shanghai’s prestigious Fudan University, was diagnosed with the dreaded Parkinson’s Disease in 2012. Regretfully, Xiaodong had to make a painful decision to quit his job and stay home to recuperate.

Witnessing the intense suffering of the family of three under the shroud of three dreaded chronic diseases, the volunteers felt deep empathy for their plight. Thus, Tzu Chi in Baoshan decided to assist this family with financial aid after making an initial assessment, while at the same time embarking on a long-term care and companionship plan with this family.

Volunteers Reach Out with Love

In the aftermath of the collapse of the two able-bodied ‘pillars’ in this family, i.e. her husband and only son, Mdm Xu had little choice but to shoulder the heavy responsibility of supporting this household. The gruelling efforts of looking after two chronically ill loved ones left her physically and mentally exhausted. As a result of over-exertion, the diabetic Mdm Xu was triggered with low blood sugar and had to be hospitalised immediately.

Upon hearing the sad plight of Mdm Xu, the Baoshan volunteers worried about the care for the wellbeing of the father and son who were helpless at home, and took the initiative to carry the burden of caring for the chronically ill men.

Volunteers, Pei Wenjuan and Fan Junling came into the Wu household and began to carefully wipe him down. Another volunteer, Wang Heping sacrificed his rest time to assist the elderly Wu with using the toilet; yet another volunteer, Mao Linghao chose to spend four precious nights with the father and son. Not only did Mao prepare breakfast, but he also diligently followed the instructions of Hualien Tzu Chi Medical Centre’s Superintendent, Dr Lin Xinrong, to assist Wu Xiaodong with his physiotherapy.

Volunteer Liao Huiling, who has been walking on legs fitted with steel nails for over 10 years, often came over to assist Xiaodong with walking exercises. And Xiaodong himself was able to assist with his father’s feeding, by mixing close to ten different types of drugs and nutrients into a liquid feed and then pouring the liquid through a feeding tube inserted into his father’s nostrils. After feeding his father, Xiaodong would massage his father with a massage ball, which often made his father burst out with joyful laughters. Sometimes, the filial Xiaodong would recount some childhood incidents to cheer up his dad, and read to him inspiring and moving stories from the Chinese Tzu Chi Monthly journal. The father and son got along very well together.

Baoshan Tzu Chi volunteers send their blessings to Wu Xiaodong and his family through the heart-warming Tzu Chi song, “One Family”. (Photo credit: Tzu Chi Taiwan)

After a few short days of caring for the beleaguered family, the volunteers developed a strong bond of friendship with them. After Mdm Xu’s discharge from hospital, Secretary Zhu even arranged a car to take her home from the hospital. Volunteer Liao Huiling joyfully greeted Xu at the entrance of her home to welcome her back. Secretary Zhu warmly shook Liao’s hand in an expression of deep gratitude and proclaimed, “It really moved me how fast all of you had made the arrangements for the sudden emergency and resolved everything successfully.”

Liao smiled warmly at Mdm Xu and encouraged her with these heartfelt words, “You’re the main pillar of support for the family; keep the fighting spirit, and send out good thoughts and blessings to your husband and son every day.” Then the volunteers united their voices in singing “One Family” as a blessing to the family.

Over time, Wu Xiaodong was moved by the Tzu Chi team’s sincerity and even joined the volunteers in their recycling efforts in the community. He has even turned into an advocate for environmental protection.

A Blessed Trip to Taiwan

During their monthly meeting in Oct 2016, Tzu Chi volunteers in Baoshan heard Hualien Tzu Chi Medical Centre’s superintendent, Dr Lin Xinrong’s talk on Parkinson’s disease and learned about how it was effectively treated in the hospital. They took the opportunity to share Wu Xiaodong’s condition with Dr Lin, and the latter said that the patient’s medical history could be handed over to the hospital for further evaluation. Some time later, Xiaodong was informed that he was able to seek treatment at the Tzu Chi Medical Centre.

One week prior to Xiaodong’s departure to Hualien, Taiwan, Mdm Xu made arrangements for her husband to be sent to a nursing home, and accompanied her son to visit his father every day. The Baoshan volunteers even went the extra mile making time to visit the elderly man, so that he would not feel lonely in his family’s absence.

When Wu Xiaodong and his mother arrived at the Tzu Chi Medical Centre in Hualien on 7th February 2017, Superintendent Lin Xinrong personally welcome the pair at the entrance. (Photo credit: Tzu Chi Taiwan)

On 7th February, Wu Xiaodong and his mother arrived in Hualien, accompanied by some Baoshan volunteers. Along the way, the pair met many warm-hearted locals who offered to help carry their simple luggage. While they arrived at the Hualien Tzu Chi Medical Centre, the superintendent himself was present to welcome the mother and son.

“From Shanghai to Hualien, we met so many people who genuinely loved and cared for us throughout the journey… I am deeply thankful,” Mdm Xu gushed her heartfelt gratitude for the love and care that the family had received from everyone.

On 8th February, the medical team began conducting various examinations on Xiaodong, and then proceeded with the next step of treatment. The mainland Chinese volunteers had also formed a team, to accompany the mother and son to Taiwan. Both of them received utmost care and countless blessings during their stay in the Tzu Chi Medical Centre in Hualien.

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