“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / gang aft a-gley /
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, / For promis’d joy!”
Robert Burns (from To a Mouse)
The telephone rang late on Tuesday night.
I was lucky it was ringing at all. Due to the earthquake, wires have been jiggled around to the extent that the phone sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t work. At first, it was full of static but now, it cuts out on me at inappropriate times, won’t connect when I answer or just won’t ring at all.
But Tuesday night, it decided to allow a call to come through.
On the other end was Jason, his voice low and sad, obviously worried. His 25-year-old sister, due for a heart operation this week, had gone home in tears. The operation was postponed yet again, the doctors’ news was not good and his family was distraught.
In summary of previous entries, Jason’s sister has been in need of an operation for several years due to a birth defect—a hole in the heart. She had a small procedure done at one time but it was unsuccessful, thus for three years, the family has been saving and borrowing enough money for a more serious operation. The needed 20,000 yuan ($2,857) had finally been collected when another blow: this would cost an extra 30,000 yuan more ($4,285). Once again, the family struggled to find people to help. The money was almost there when the earthquake hit. Hospitals filled with thousands and the operation was postponed. Then last week, Jason’s sister finally entered the Sichuan Provincial Hospital with an O.K. for surgery. I helped out with the additional funds needed and things looked good to go. . . . until Jason’s Tuesday night phone call.
Because of the seriousness of the operation, the doctors needed some extra equipment which the hospital didn’t have. They had to “book” it from another hospital and are waiting for its arrival. They also informed the family that most individuals with this heart problem died very young but Jason’s sister was a miraculous exception. They’d never performed this surgery on an adult before so it was risky.
Naturally, the family was upset, especially as she’d been staying in the hospital for over a week, being prepped and waiting for this to happen. I mentioned that Chinese hospitals are pretty bare so there’s nothing to do. No TV to watch or recreational and sitting rooms to visit. Plus the family is in charge of taking care of the patient’s needs, such as food, clothing, washing and so forth. Not to be in the comfort of one’s home, with good sleep, home-cooked meals and community support, was taking its toll on everyone. Plus staying in the hospital costs money, even if it’s a shared communal room for $5.00 a day. Thus the family decided it was best to leave rather than wait around another day.
All this going on and Jason not in attendance. Jason is enrolled in Qing Hai University, in the next province over. In China, mid-July is university summer dismissal, so he is not able to be here physically to support the family. The concern in his voice was all too apparent as he related to me his feelings of hopelessness.
“You know, my sister is so upset. This is worrying her. It’s not making her any better,” he said.
Then the phone cut off abruptly, leaving me angry and annoyed. Nor was I able to call back because the line was dead.
So many obstacles popping up again and again for this poor family! Like the aftershocks of the earthquake, they never seemed to end.
But that was Tuesday night, with promises that another day would be better.
Sure enough, Jason’s email came to me bright and early this morning. One of the doctors personally telephoned his sister and parents to tell them everything would be fine. The equipment would be there soon; the operation would be more successful than they originally anticipated. She shouldn’t lose hope. Everything would go well. After the weekend, she should return and they would get this done right away. Don’t worry!
The relief in Jason’s email was as strongly felt as if he were talking to me on the phone. He’d already spoken to his sister and parents to find their spirits had lifted. His as well, not to mention mine.
And despite the Scot poet’s (Robert Burns), rather depressing outlook at our best laid plans, I think in this case, the pain and grief is just about ended and we’re on the pathway to a joyful outcome.
Watch this space for upcoming reports on our Jason’s family and sister.
From Chengdu, as always, wishing you all “Ping An!” (Peace)
REMINDER FOR AID IN BUYING TENTS, VACCINES AND NEEDED SUPPLIES FOR EARTHQUAKE DISASTER AREAS
(Yes! Money still needed for 5 million having nothing other than tents and donated supplies to live on.)
United Methodists: UMCOR Advance #982450, International Disaster Response, China Earthquake