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Zhou Lin Gets Ready for First Steps
August 12, 2006
Brecken Swartz
Zhou Lin is making great progress toward her goal of walking by the end of this year. She is finally able to stand completely upright on the "tilt table" she uses in physical therapy, and just this week she has been able to try holding her own weight up on parallel bars. Beth, Zhou Lin's physical therapist, and all the rest of her wonderful nurses at Shriners are keeping a close eye on the health of the fragile skin on Zhou Lin's feet, and although there are some tiny areas of tearing from the pressure of standing and wearing the tight compression socks she needs to keep her foot stumps in the proper shape, all is apparently going rather well. Zhou Lin has an appointment in a couple of days to be fitted for her prosthetics at the Shriners Orthopedic Hospital in Springfield.

In the meantime, Zhou Lin is keeping quite busy. She and her mom are having a great time these days doing crafts -- stringing beads, experimenting with different art materials, even knitting. (Zhou Lin's mother has already knitted several items of clothing for her baby son to wear this winter.)

Also, a Chinese friend from DC donated Zhou Lin a used laptop, which Zhou Lin is now slowly starting to learn to use on her own. The computer is the one thing that has made her wish to have use of her fingers again, so that she can type more freely on the keyboard. Although the surgery on her hands may not happen this year, Zhou Lin is definitely learning to do what she can, and once she can sit up straight again (after the surgery on her perineum heals fully), she should be able to start experimenting with some English-learning software donated by another Chinese friend from Maryland. Zhou Lin's English is still really coming along, and she is starting to get into multisyllabic words now. Her first activity on the computer was to learn to play Free Cell with one of her nurses.

We are about a week away now from Zhou Lin's big art auction, to be held in Cambridge on Sunday, August 20th, from 2-4pm. Empire Photo, a very nice local framing company here in Boston run by Sinasi Birgun and his family (from Turkey) provided dry mounting and framing that really sets off the beauty of Zhou Lin's paintings. People have already been stopping by to see Zhou Lin's artwork, and we will soon be providing photos of each painting on the HandReach website. We are hoping to raise around $10,000 through the art auction, which will go first toward Zhou Lin's continuing care in China, then to helping her family with their debts. If there is still any funding left, it will go toward the Children's Burns Initiative to start translating some of Shriners' pediatric burn expertise into modules that can be used by doctors in other countries to treat children suffering from severe burn injuries.

Our search is now under way for doctors in China who will be willing to work with us on getting Zhou Lin the follow-up care she needs this year as she starts out on her prosthetics, both in Beijing and in her hometown in Sichuan. Some Chinese researchers at Shriners in Boston are coming forward with recommendations, and the goal of setting up a pediatric burn unit in Beijing in the short term seems feasible. But we will need a lot more funding to start to make this level of care available to poor families with no money, which is Zhou Lin's dream.

Although Zhou Lin is healing well now from her foot amputation and the surgery on her perineum, she still needs at least one more surgery (on the anterior region around her pelvis), and she will need a lot of monitoring as she starts out on her prosthetics because of the fragility of her bones and skin. The plan now is for Zhou Lin and her mother to stay in Boston through the end of September, although Xu Lan and I will need to take off for China at the end of August to begin our teaching jobs in Beijing and Sichuan. As long as Zhou Lin's condition can be safely stabilized before she leaves Boston, she should be able to return to China for most of the year before she needs to come back to Shriners again next summer to continue the rest of her surgical reconstructive treatment. We will have another team meeting next week to pin down the upcoming dates.

In the meantime, stay tuned for Zhou Lin's artwork to appear on the HandReach website within the next few days!

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