Students with disabilities cope with life after earthquake

Updated: 2011-04-20 07:55

By Xu Lin (China Daily)

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Students with disabilities cope with life after earthquake

Most people can't tell 19-year-old Liao Bo underwent a left thigh amputation three years ago when they see him play basketball with his classmates.

Liao is one of the 120 students with disabilities from Beichuan Middle School, which lost more than 1,000 students and 40 teachers to the 8.0-magnitude earthquake in Sichuan province's Wenchuan county on May 12, 2008.

Liao is also known as "Crack Boy" because of a well-known online photo of him stuck in the crack of a collapsed classroom, waiting to be rescued.

The China Federation for Disabled Persons sponsored treatments for Liao and seven other children from the quake-affected area at the China Rehabilitation Research Center in Beijing. After more than six months of physical therapy, they were given free artificial limbs and sent back to school in 2009.

Quake-resistant and barrier-free construction dominated Sichuan's rebuilding efforts.

"It's convenient to go to the dormitory or restroom," Liao says.

Huang Siyu, a 15-year-old junior high student from Dujiangyan Friendship School, also appreciates the facilities. The girl's left thigh was crushed when she was trapped in the school's ruins.

The new classrooms and canteen have special desks for wheelchair users, Huang says. And the classrooms and dormitories are connected by barrier-free passages.

The school also organizes extracurricular activities for students with disabilities, including weekly rehabilitation training sessions, wheelchair dances and lessons in "face-changing", a Sichuan Opera tradition in which performers rapidly switch their masks.

"I love sports, such as basketball and swimming, and I can ride a bike," Huang says.

The school has arranged for Huang and her younger sister Huang Siyao to stay in the same dormitory so they can look after each other.

And Li Lu, a 17-year-old student of Qiyi Juyuan Middle School, who lost her right arm and right leg in the quake, shares a dorm with her mother, who is a janitor at the school.

Because Huang is still growing, she must adjust her artificial limb every week.

"At our weekly physical therapy, the teachers help us adjust the limb and teach us how to do some physical activities, such as walking," Huang says.

Liao, however, has to take a bus to Chengdu about once a month to adjust his artificial limb, because there is no such service in his hometown. It takes him a day and a half, as there is always a long line at the hospital.

"I wash the limb every time I take it off and have to wash it several times a day in summer," he says.

As a resident student, he must both concentrate on his studies as well as look after himself. Liao's parents are migrant workers in Guangdong province, and his grandmother lives about 200 km away. "I go to my grandma's once a semester and my parents come back once a year. I really miss them," he says.

Like other senior middle school students, Liao gets up at 6:20 am and goes to bed at midnight, because he is preparing for the approaching national university entrance examination in June.

"I wanted to become a civil engineering major at Xi'an Jiaotong University so I could build the most quake-proof building in the world," he says.

But Liao has had to give up his dream because of poor health. "My immune system has been weakened, and I catch colds easily. After five ultrasound treatments, there are still five kidney stones in my body," he says.

Liao says that his parents hope he can stay in Sichuan and find an easy job.

"The best choice is to study computer science at Sichuan University. It's convenient to adjust my artificial limb in Chengdu," he says.

Many children disabled in the quake, such as Liao, struggle to catch up with their peers, because they have spent about a year out of school.

But Li remains optimistic.

"I want to go to Beijing for my university studies," Li says. "There are so many kindhearted people in the capital helping me. We keep in touch all the time."


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