Zhou Yuehua, Disabled Doctor Treating Villagers for over 20 Years

  • March 24, 2014
  • Editor: Leo Yin
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Zhou Yuehua, Disabled Doctor Treating Villagers for over 20 Years
Zhou Yuehua, a physically-challenged rural doctor in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, rides piggyback on the shoulders of her husband Ai Qi on the way to a patient's home on December 18, 2012. [Beijing Review/Chen Cheng]

"I simply want to be recognized as a good doctor and heal the sick. My patients' health is my happiness. In my eyes, it is the responsibility of village doctors to serve the healthcare needs and improve the health conditions of people in rural areas. I hope my 'Healthy China' dream comes true soon," said Zhou Yuehua, a physically-challenged rural doctor in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.

Zhou Yuehua, a 45-year-old rural doctor in Xihe Village, Beibei District in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, crosses over towering mountains and winding rivers, in sunshine or moonlight, to deliver medical services to local villagers. 

Zhou was diagnosed with poliomyelitis, an acute infectious disease that causes flaccid paralysis of the muscles, shortly after she was born, which left her unable to use her left leg. Over the past two decades, she has visited her patients every day with the help of her husband, Ai Qi, who sometimes carries his wife on his back as she makes her rounds.

The couple was selected by China Central Television (CCTV), the national broadcaster, as among the top 10 people who moved the Chinese people in 2012 for the wife's medical service to local patients, her tenacity as a physically-challenged person, and her husband's persistent support.

"As a grassroots medical worker, I must devote my heart and soul to my patients and carry on the spirit of 'heal the wounded and rescue the dying.' Medicine is a noble profession and I must be loyal to my occupation and serve the people," Zhou said. 

Zhou offers medical service to about 5,000 villagers from Xihe Village and some surrounding villages. "Patients sometimes go to my clinic to receive treatment and sometimes request house calls," said Zhou. "Now road conditions have been improved significantly and Ai usually takes me on a motorcycle."

"I simply want to be recognized as a good doctor and heal the sick. My patients' health is my happiness. In my eyes, it is the responsibility of village doctors to serve the healthcare needs and improve the health conditions of people in rural areas. I hope my 'Healthy China' dream comes true soon," said Zhou. 

Because of humid weather in the mountains, many elderly in the area suffer from arthritis. Zhou often treats them with physical therapies such as acupuncture and massages. For people facing financial difficulties, they do not charge money for such services.

Zhou says she feels happy that she can save the villagers some trouble and money by offering them more medical services.

After graduating from medical school, Zhou failed to land a job due to her disability. At that time, people in Zhou's village had to travel nearly five kilometers to the nearest town to get medical attention. This situation spurred Zhou to open her own clinic. 

With her 200 yuan (US$ 32) savings and 600 yuan (US$ 96) from her parents, Zhou converted her home into a basic clinic in November 1990. In earlier years, supported by a crutch, Zhou wandered the village's mountainous paths with her medical kit. 

Carrying Her All My Life

"I will continue carrying her to see patients until I am physically unable to do so," said Ai, who is less than 1.7 meters tall and has carried Zhou on his back to see almost 300 patients each year over the past 19 years. 

Ai said he was attracted at first sight of Zhou, who was at the moment struggling to walk alone along the country road, with a big medical box slung from one shoulder and a crutch in hand. He saw a strong-minded and optimistic woman. 

"I want to pursue a beautiful life with you," Ai answered Zhou's question of why he decided to marry a physically-challenged woman. 

Zhou and Ai got married in 1995 and from then on, Zhou's stick was replaced by her husband. Ai 'chauffeurs' her around on his motorcycle when road conditions permit, and on his back if the mountain roads become too rugged for motor vehicles.

Ai, an accountant in the village, also does most of the housework and buys all needed medicine because Zhou is usually busy. 

"I would not have lasted until now without my husband's help and support," said Zhou. "He is my second left leg."

The couple also has a son, who hasn't done well in his studies because his parents were too dedicated to Zhou's patients to give him enough attention. The boy was often left alone at home late at night when he was just a toddler. When he was four, his arm was scalded by a kettle of boiling water and the scar remains.

But the now grown-up son has made a promise that has touched Zhou deeply: he will take over his dad's job carrying his mother to visit patients if his dad ever gets too old to do so.

When asked what his dream is, Ai said he wanted his son to excel in his studies and the condition of his wife to be improved. As a village cadre, he hopes he can perform his duties well and make his contribution to the realization of the 'Chinese Dream.' 

As for Zhou, a hospital in east China's Jiangsu Province has promised to give free medical treatment for her poliomyelitis, with the hope of strengthening her left leg and reducing the burden of the right one. In addition, she attended the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing in November 2012 as a representative. 

Zhou hopes to learn more medical knowledge in the future. "Lots of patients in rural areas hope they can be cured locally but in vain, because rural doctors' theoretical knowledge is too limited. I hope the state can invest more to upgrade the medical education for rural doctors."

(Source: youth.cn/Translated by womenofchina.cn)

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