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Zhou Lin's Strides Forward
July 10, 2006
Brecken Swartz
Zhou Lin has made some major progress over the past week. She's free of the IVs and monitors right now, and her foot stumps don't hurt anymore. She's been spending time exploring the playroom in the hospital, doing her physical therapy exercises, learning English, and painting. She hasn't had a formal art lesson yet, but she's picking up some artistic techniques on her own now that are pretty cool. We're planning an art auction in Cambridge in August to help raise money for her family and to benefit the burn hospital she wants to see built in China someday. I've been in contact with the Chairman of the Board of Shriners Hospitals for Children, who says that the Shriners would be happy to help provide the intellectual "software" (best practices in terms of administration, financing, and medical care) if some donors from China can build the actual hospital.

A Korean student of mine, Todd Song, and some of his friends came to Boston this weekend with money that they had collected from their church to help Zhou Lin's family. Zhou Lin's mother was thrilled with the donation and asked me to get her a thick envelope right away because she wants to send the money to China immediately to cover their family's expenses while Dad is taking care of Zhou Lin's younger sister and brother this summer -- they have no source of income right now except for their small subsistence farm, which is hard to tend while caring for two small children. Our Korean friends also brought presents, prayers, and lots of smiles from their church in Maryland, which Zhou Lin seemed to enjoy immensely. The visit reminded me how good it is for Zhou Lin to have visitors, so please come see us in Boston!

On Saturday, Shriners arranged for the hospital kids who are able to go outside to take an afternoon trip to Boston Common for the "Life is Good" Watermelon Festival. Zhou Lin got to eat watermelon, do watermelon-related crafts, enjoy some people watching, and even participate in a few games, such as "dog bowling" where kids try to toss a small ball into a set of porcelain dog bowls. Zhou Lin managed to get a ball right in the center bowl and was roundly cheered by everyone in the vicinity.

Although she is getting around well now in her wheelchair, Zhou Lin's left foot stump still has a dark area that the doctors are concerned about -- the result of poor veins in her left leg that are preventing a healthy flow of blood back to her heart. The dark area is demarcating more clearly now, which means that the area will either need to be sloughed off and re-grafted with new skin, or the leg will be amputated below the knee. A Chinese qigong doctor here in Boston, Dr. Zhang Hui (who has the famous singer Sting and many Harvard and MIT professors as his clients) has agreed to come to the hospital to treat Zhou Lin for free with qigong and massage. The idea is to help her reconnect physically and mentally with her legs after three years of atrophy, and she is responding very well to the treatment and learning to do a bit of qigong herself during quiet moments.

Right now, Dr. Sheridan is mainly concerned with surgeries to correct Zhou Lin's major difficulty with bowel movements. He did a dilation procedure last week that revealed that her anatomy has become a bit complicated in that region, and an MRI will be needed to tell better what is going on before doing any more surgeries. Zhou Lin was scheduled to have an MRI at Mass General Hospital a few days ago, but she freaked out at being inside the machine, so the procedure had to be rescheduled (with sedation next time). After the MRI is done, we'll be able to find out more about what procedures she needs, and presumably the decision will be made about what to do for her left foot, as well.

Zhou Lin definitely seems to be used to the hospital experience now, and her attitude is positive and bright. She is great at giving "high fives" whenever there is something to celebrate (which is frequent!), and the doctors are still hopeful that she can start walking a bit before she goes back to China. Lots of prayers are still needed, though. Not only is her left foot stump in serious danger, but her left knee is very weak, and she definitely needs a lot of strengthening before she can begin to bear weight and move around freely.

Zhou Lin loves getting cards and fun stuff in the mail (thanks to those of you who have sent things!), so please feel free to send whatever you'd like to:

Zhou Lin
c/o Brecken Chinn Swartz
10 Emerson Place
Apt. 5B
Boston, MA 02114
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