Surgery brings back her smile

Updated: 2013-11-07 11:08

By Sun Li in Fuzhou (China Daily)

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For the past 12 years, Xu Jianmei has not smiled and she thought she would never smile again. The 17-year-old girl from rural Putian, Fujian province, says she liked to hide her fire-scarred face from public and always bowed her head to avoid eye contact.

But in October, her life changed. Xu's face was rebuilt by doctors after almost a year of treatment.

Surgery brings back her smile

For the first time in 12 years, Xu looked at herself in the mirror and smiled. She knew it is the beginning of a new life.

According to Ke Haiying, Xu's mother, the teenager was once an outgoing and cheerful little girl. "At a very young age, she learned things fast and always brought joy to those around her. Many acquaintances would buy her candies to cheer her up," Ke says.

When Xu was 5, she was left alone in a hut one day as her parents, both migrant workers, went to work.

The shed accidentally caught fire and Xu was badly burned. She was lucky to be alive.

Her father Xu Guoxiong was devastated: The blaze disfigured the girl's fingers and left her without a chin, eyelids and a large part of her right ear.

Xu's parents tried to borrow money from everyone they knew to treat her. But they did not manage to raise enough money for the high treatment cost and had to make the heartbreaking decision to take their daughter home from the hospital without corrective surgery.

Xu says she initially didn't feel her appearance was very different from what it used to be. "The only difference was I often felt itchiness on my face," Xu says.

But she soon felt uneasy as strangers would stare at her curiously. Gradually, Xu spoke less and always lowered her head to avoid attention.

"It's very painful to see a once carefree girl becoming quiet and shy," the father says.

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