Chinese railway workers have spent half a century building a "ladder" to Tibet, the Roof of the World. On July 1, 2006, the launch of the Qinghai-Tibet railway brought them both smiles and tears. The history of the railroad's construction is written by heroes. During the late 1950s, the first generation of workers went to Qinghai Lake to begin construction of the railroad, and afterwards, the second generation of workers went during the 1970s, of whom 309 died while working. Finally, at the beginning of the 21st century, the workers have realized the 50 year dream.
At a celebration marking the Qinghai-Tibet railroad's launch, Ding Taihuan, the head nurse of the 4th Group of the China Railway Construction Corporation Building Site Hospital, was excited.
In June 2001, Ding Taihuan went to work at the Qinghai-Tibet railroad construction site from her hometown in Anhui Province. It was a choice hard for her to make. At the time, the 4th Group of the China Railway Construction Corporation, to which Ding's hospital belongs, decided to transfer some staff to build a hospital at the Qinghai-Tibet Railway's construction site, No. 2 Section. She knew that the plateau's conditions were very hard and if she went there, no one would care for her 12-year-old daughter because her husband worked far from home, too. Moreover, she already had a stable job and income. Nevertheless, she still wanted the job because it was a rare chance and challenge. Ding handed in her application and left her daughter in her aunt's care.
|Ding Taihuan is cleaning high-pressure oxygen cabin [Tibet.cn]|
In March 2002, the 4th Group of the China Railway Construction Corporation won the construction bid for the No.15 section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, where the altitude was 4,720 meters at the foot of Tanggula Mountain and the weather was changed frequently. As the only female staff, Ding Taihuan applied to work there to establish the second-phase hospital construction site and guarantee the health of the workers.
At that time, Ding had to live with seven male staff of the Engineering Headquarters, and the hospital was a 20-square meter room which included preparation work for the hospital. She kept working whenever she had strength, and when she was sleepy, she went to bed wearing clothes. Twice, she fainted from exhaustion and was given medicine by other people.
Care for those who suffer from altitude sickness
The difficulty of saving and caring for those with altitude sickness on the plateau is unimaginable for those who work at lower altitudes.
Ding and her colleagues experienced the hardest work on May 9, 2004. That day, an acute hydrocephalus patient was sent to the hospital and Ding gave him the appropriate treatment at once. The patient's condition stablilized within two hours, but he still needed to be transferred to Golmud as quickly as possible for further treatment.
During the transfer, they passed through the Fenghuoshan Mountain Pass, over 5,000 meters above sea level, and the Kunlun Mountain Pass, which had foul weather. The patient relapsed three times along the way, so Ding and her colleagues stopped the ambulance each time to resuscitate him. As they approached the Kunlun Mountain Pass, violent winds and heavy snow blotted out the earth and sky. The driver was unable to see and had to drive based on fee
Work with Her Husband at the Plateau
In April 2002, Ding's husband called her to say that he would come to work for the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, too. Being an engineer, he also dreamed of taking part in the railroad's construction. Ding supported his decision, but their 12-year-old daughter lost the chance to see her father once a month.
After her husband came to the construction site, the hospital leaders gave them a room to live together. However, it was still hard for them to see each other because her husband often worked overtime until twelve at night at the construction site, and Ding was busy taking care of patients and sending seriously sick ones to Golmud, which took several days for each trip.
Ding Taihuan felt that she owed a lot to her daughter for those years, "I only attended one parents' meeting when she was in junior high school, and I haven't met most of her teachers". In June 2004, her daughter was about to take the senior high school entrance examination, and missed her parents very much. Ding also worried that her absence might impact her daughter's exam preparations, but she couldn't return home or call her daughter due to the plateau's harsh conditions.
In November 2004, a few builders stayed at the No. 15 construction site for maintenance work during the winter break. Some staff from Ding's hospital also had to stay to take care of the workers. At that time, Ding was on a work trip in Beijing. She was required to stay at the plateau once again as the only female staff. When she returned to the plateau, the temperature fell to minus 27 degrees Celsius. Ding was the last hospital worker to leave the plateau before the 2005 Spring Festival.
Ding Taihuan is very proud that no workers died of altitude sickness during the five years of construction. She is among the thousands of workers who silently contributed to the construction of the railroad that stretches towards the roof of the world.
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