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Zhou Lin Moves On to Next Phase
September 3, 2006
Brecken Swartz
The end of August brought a major transition to Zhou Lin's life, and to mine. Her mother and teacher had to head back to Sichuan to resume their work at home, so Zhou Lin's mother signed over legal guardianship to me and now Zhou Lin and I are here in Boston on our own. The team at Shriners wants to get all of her major reconstructive surgeries completed as well as fitting her properly with prosthetics and getting her walking again before she heads back to China, so I made the decision to turn down my long-anticipated job in Beijing and stay here. Zhou Lin and her mother have named me her official "godmother" (ganma), and I'm very excited to be able to be here as she learns to walk and live independently! The hospital has set up times for Zhou Lin to call home to her family in China regularly, and she has a great time telling her parents about the progress she is making.

Zhou Lin unfortunately had to go through some very tough surgeries between her legs right around the time that her mother and teacher left, so this has been an intense bonding time for us as she's been going through the painful process of healing despite frequent dressing and bandage changes every time she has to go to the bathroom. One of Zhou Lin's favorite parts of each day now is music therapy, through which she is learning to play the mountain dulcimer, a four-stringed instrument that the hospital's wonderful music therapists have adapted to make it possible for Zhou Lin to express her emotions musically. She loves to sit in her wheelchair and explore the instrument on her own, but even when she is confined to her bed, her therapist tenderly lays the instrument next to her on the bed and operates the frets while Zhou Lin strums the strings. The music is beautiful, and the therapist is working on helping Zhou Lin compose songs on her own.

Zhou Lin has also started her regular tutoring lessons, taught by Chinese graduate students from a local church who are volunteering to help her keep up in her regular Chinese schoolwork -- language, math, science, social studies, and the arts. The tutors are amazingly bright, kind, and dedicated (pictured is a visiting scholar from Harvard Law School who is teaching Zhou Lin social studies each week), and they also bring her food, videos, computer software, and other nice gifts to make sure that she doesn't get too homesick. Zhou Lin also gets to watch CCTV4 News and some other Chinese TV programs each day to keep her up on life in China. So with tutoring, physical therapy, music lessons, English lessons, playroom time, arts and crafts, and having her medical needs met, Zhou Lin's days are amazingly full and pass by pretty quickly.

Once the area between Zhou Lin's legs heals sufficiently, we'll be spending a lot more time in Springfield at the Shriners Orthopedic Hospital that plans to get her up and walking on her new prosthetic feet. Zhou Lin has visited Springfield several times, had a leg molded and been able to watch the process of making prosthetic limbs, and she is excited to start getting up and around once she is able to bear weight. On our last trip to Springfield, Zhou Lin was given a magazine for amputees, and she was excited to see people in the magazine running races, skateboarding, dancing, and just living normally. We have a very long road ahead because Zhou Lin has a number of strikes against her -- soft bones, hyperextended knees, damaged blood vessels, limited range of motion, and poor-quality grafted skin on her legs, the people at Shriners are very positive and committed to help her achieve the best possible outcome for her unique situation. They realize that she will be living in an area in China without much high-tech medical care available, so they are already exploring the best ways to make it possible for her to live independently throughout her life.

Thanks to the amazing support we've received so far from friends and family, we should be able to stay here in Boston for the coming few months. Thank you again to everyone who pitched in to help keep this miracle unfolding!

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