Miners get help in fight against disease

Updated: 2012-04-25 07:59

By He Na (China Daily)

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Pushed from pillar to post

Li Chunqiang is from Kuilin village in Sichuan province, and although he is only 39, people think he is at least 45. His face is pale and he looks deeply unwell. He has to stop and rest after walking just 100 meters.

Li has been working in coal mines around Beijing for more than 20 years. When he was diagnosed with second-stage black lung disease in August 2010, the doctor said Li would have to be hospitalized immediately to receive treatment.

Miners get help in fight against disease

Li Chunqiang with his medical report compiled in August at Beijing's Chaoyang Hospital. Zhu Xingxin / China Daily

Almost two years on, Li and around 30 colleagues visit the local legal aid departments and Liangxiang county government every day to lobby for funds to pay for treatment to ease the pain. "When the disease is at its worst, I even want to use a knife to cut my chest," he said.

Misfortunes never come individually. Li was orphaned when he was just 16 and he had to borrow the money to pay for his mother's funeral. The following year, he followed in the footsteps of a fellow villager and arrived in Beijing to begin work in a coal mine in the district of Fangshan.

Time passed quickly, the youth turned into a middle-aged man and his salary rose gradually from 300 yuan ($47.50) a month in 1998 to 6,000 yuan in 2010. One month's salary is almost equal to a full year's income from the crops he raises at home.

Li got married and had a daughter 11 years ago. He said he felt happiest when transferring money to his wife, because he was providing for his family.

However, the good times did not last long and the mine closed in May 2010. Li found a job as security man in a restaurant, but the first attack of black lung disease occurred at that time. "I caught a cold after I stood in the rain to guide cars. The cold almost killed me," he said.

He went to a community hospital and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. However, the medical staff referred him to Hepingli Hospital in Beijing and black lung disease was diagnosed. "The doctor told me that if I did not receive treatment, my lungs would become as hard as stone, and I would die. He also told me that treatment is expensive and apart from the lung-lavage operation, there aren't many effective treatments," he said.

Li went to a different hospital for a second opinion, but the diagnosis was unchanged. The doctors also advised immediate hospitalization, but Li left because he couldn't afford the time or the fees. He went back to work, but his condition deteriorated and he was forced to quit his job. His fellow coal miners recognized the disease and those with similar symptoms went to the hospital and were given the same diagnosis.

Li went back to his hometown, where another blow awaited him. His wife asked for a divorce when she learned he was sick. Having begged his wife to take good care of their daughter, Li signed the divorce papers.

Now he doesn't have much money left. In a bid to save cash, he buys the cheapest food available and so long as he's able to take a bus he won't use the subway, resulting in a saving of one yuan

Along with the other coal miners from his hometown, Li returned to Beijing to seek compensation from the mine owner but as the business was a county-level enterprise, the owner advised the men to negotiate with the Liangxiang government, which controls Fangshan district. When they did, they were referred to the local labor bureau. The bureau sent them back to the local government. "We have been just like balls, kicked here and there during the past two months," he said. "My health is failing, but I am still young, I really don't want to die. Please help me and the other poor guys."


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