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Zhou Lin's Surgery Tomorrow
June 26, 2006
Brecken Swartz
In about an hour, we are headed over to Shriners Hospital for Zhou Lin to be admitted for surgery. She's a little nervous about losing her feet tomorrow morning, but she knows that this surgery will be much less painful than the others she experienced in China, and so she's trying to look on the bright side and be cheerful. Occasionally when no one is looking, though, the intensity of the situation is apparent on her face.

Zhou Lin has spent a lot of time painting recently, experimenting with new media (watercolors, markers, glitter paints, etc., which she has never had access to before) and we've been amazed at the wide variety of creative designs she has produced. I've also been spending a lot of time with her studying English, and she is now confidently reading simple words. (She can almost make it through Dr. Seuss' phonics-based "Hop on Pop" by herself, and really enjoys P.D. Eastman's "Are You My Mother?") She also knows how to tell time and count money in English, and we are working slowly on building vocabulary and starting to approach simple sentences.

We were interviewed this week by a very nice Taiwanese reporter from the World Journal, North America's largest Chinese-speaking newspaper. The reporter spent about three hours with us and was very thorough in her reporting. Zhou Lin was astounded when she saw the article on-line! (She has seen the HandReach website that Jane put together for her, but didn't realize until recently that the site was public and could be viewed from anywhere in the world. She had just thought the pictures were on my computer.) The Taiwanese reporter is also arranging for a Chinese artist from Zhou Lin's region in Sichuan province to come and give her some art lessons. Zhou Lin is really looking forward to learning some art skills, since she is really focused on becoming an artist. When she paints, she tends to stay silently at her desk for hours.

A big event for us this week was to take another trip out to Shriners Orthopedic Hospital in Springfield for a lower limb prosthetics clinic, where Zhou Lin could see some other kids with varying degrees of foot and leg prosthetics. She will have what is called a Symes amputation (, which will leave the ends of her legs looking somewhat like the small ends of baseball bats. We had a chance to meet a 3-year-old boy who has had the same kind of amputation that Zhou Lin will have, and he is walking around with no problem at all, either with his Buzz Lightyear prosthesis or on the stump. (He also loves to take his foot off and turn it around backwards as sort of a "party trick" to make people laugh. Giggling hilariously over that was definitely the best medicine Zhou Lin has had so far to prepare her for what is to come.)

Although we've had a lot of rain here in Boston this week, we did manage to get out a bit. We've been taking long walks around the neighborhood, and recently took a nice boat ride on the Charles River so that they could see Boston from the river. We also went to the local mall a couple of times so that they could see that slice of "American culture." Their favorite store turned out to be Claire's accessories. Zhou Lin now has a nice net set of hair bands and is having fun trying her hair in different styles. She also wanted to get a "best friends" necklace set to share with her younger sister and brother.

People's kindness to us has been unbelievable. The cashier at Claire's in the mall gave us a discount on Zhou Lin's hair accessories, the guys at the local car rental are giving us half price on the rental car we need to get to the hospital in Springfield, and the guy at the local gas station even gave us a free tank of gas! We also received a big box of clothes from some dear friends in Maryland (thank you, Gary and Lingling!), which Zhou Lin loved trying on, and today we got a visit from an older Chinese couple here in the neighborhood who brought us both food and clothing. Zhou Lin's friend Jimmy even stopped by this weekend with his mother (all the way from Georgia!), who gave Zhou Lin a lovely gift of scented soap, lotion, and perfume from Bath & Body Works -- the first time she has ever received such a luxurious gift. She's afraid to even open it, but we plan to break out the soap and lotion in the hospital for sure. The physical therapist has asked me to have Zhou Lin take a bath and then give her a good leg massage every evening, which is a lovely way to wind down after her intense strengthening exercises before we read some books and go to bed. I'm learning Reiki and trying to include some while I massage Zhou Lin's legs, which she says feels really good.

For those of you who are the praying type, please pray tonight that the surgery goes perfectly tomorrow morning, and that Zhou Lin and her mom can be comfortable in the hospital. The surgery will be performed jointly by Zhou Lin's main doctor (and skin specialist), Dr. Rob Sheridan from Shriners, and Dr. Brian Grottkau, her orthopedist from Mass General Hospital. Because this is a bilateral amputation and the stumps will need to bear the entirety of Zhou Lin's weight for the rest of her life, the doctors are very concerned about doing a perfect job so that her skin and bones aren't left vulnerable to breaking.

Thanks again for your prayers and support, the effect of which we are feeling profoundly each day.

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