Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Jul 31st
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Home Our Volunteers Stories Soaring With Hope

Soaring With Hope

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Soaring With Hope
Love that no money can buy
A fulfilling life
Don't be afraid to try
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It was a beautiful night. The moon, clear and bright, was riding high in the sky. A light breeze wafted through the window of an apartment building and brushed against the faces of a couple who were soundly asleep. The only sound that was audible in the stillness of the night was the whir of a computer fan.

"A-Mei, A-Mei!" Xu Zhen-xin (許振新), drowsy-eyed and half-asleep, woke his wife with a soft voice. "My urine bag is full."

Chen Fang-mei (陳芳梅) slowly turned around. With her eyes half open, she deftly changed the urine bag. Then she got out of bed, and, holding the brimming urine bag in her hand, walked unsteadily towards the bathroom.

Barely an hour later, Fang-mei woke up again to turn her husband over in bed. Although she looked sleepy, there was obvious dexterity in her movements. Apparently, it was something she had done over and over again for an extended period of time.

"Sorry," Zhen-xin said apologetically to his wife. "It's all because of me that you cannot sleep soundly through the night." Fang-mei answered with a sweet smile.

In order to take care of her half-paralyzed husband, Fang-mei has not had a night of uninterrupted sleep for many years. Zhen-xin was full of apologies, as well as gratitude, for his attentive and loving wife.

Laughing away trials and tribulations
With a height of 177 cm (5'10"), Zhen-xin used to have a nice, strong figure. From his broad shoulders, we could still see what a sturdy build he once had. But now he could only recline on his bed as he told us about the car accident that changed his life 11 years ago.

That afternoon, he had just gotten off work and was driving to pick up his wife on his way home. He stopped his car at an intersection, waiting for the traffic light to change. Just as the light turned green and he started to move, he suddenly noticed a truck running the light and bearing down on him from the left. He steered his car to the right, but immediately saw a motorcycle passing him on the right at high speed. He stepped on the brake and jerked the steering wheel to the left, causing him to lose control of his car and swerve to the safety island. Right at that moment, another car crashed head-on into his.

When the crash happened, Zhen-xin did not detect anything wrong with himself. All he could feel was a dull pain. But when the ambulance arrived and his car door was opened for him to get out, he suddenly lurched out of the car uncontrollably.

"Jun, Jun, give me a hand!" he called out to his relative who had been riding in the passenger seat. Zhen-xin found that he had lost control of his own body.

After he was carried into the ambulance, he found his hand dangling over the side of the stretcher, so he asked a medical worker to move it in for him. "Why don't you move it yourself?" asked the medical worker. "I can't. That's why I asked you to."

Reminiscing about the accident, Zhen-xin said with a slight frown, "I never expected that it'd be so serious."

Later, it was discovered that the violent impact of the crash had broken his cervical vertebrae. Zhen-xin underwent an emergency operation that lasted for seven hours. After the surgery, his doctor assured him, "There is a 70 percent chance you'll recover completely."

"He must have said that to console me," Zhen-xin said. Even so, he and his wife were greatly encouraged by the doctor's words. Because of the doctor's heartening remark, Fang-mei spent a lot of time helping Zhen-xin do rehabilitation exercises. She got so adept at taking care of Zhen-xin that she even became a kind of model care-giver at the hospital and was often asked by doctors to demonstrate her nursing skills, including how to insert a urinary catheter and move a paralyzed patient, to new interns and nurses.

"Because I was almost completely immobilized," Zhen-xin explained, "Fang-mei tied a small bell to me so that when I was feeling uncomfortable or wanted to be turned over in bed, I would just give the bell a slight shake, and she would come to me right away."

Fang-mei, 160 cm (5'3") in height, looked rather small beside her tall, heavyset husband. Despite her petite figure, however, she never uttered a word of complaint when carrying or moving her husband.

"He's light!" she always says to others.

"Greatness often exists in the most ordinary people," said Zhen-xin with a smile. "A-Mei is great. I often call her 'Superwoman.'"

Fang-mei was two months pregnant when Zhen-xin was first hospitalized. Constantly running back and forth between her workplace, home, and the hospital, Fang-mei soon found herself on the verge of burnout. Sympathizing with her situation, the hospital made an exception and allowed her to sleep in the same ward as her husband. "At that time, I was most afraid that I might lose my baby," Fang-mei recalled. "Fortunately it survived!"

During Zhen-xin's stay in the hospital, their son, then less than two years old, developed a persistent high fever. Lying in bed, Zhen-xin felt helpless for not being able to take care of him. He was so engulfed in worry and sadness that he burst into tears in his wife's arms.

"However, I knew that it was useless to allow myself to wallow in sorrow," Zhen-xin lightened his tone and tried to smile as he continued. "I told myself I must pull myself together and try to get back on my feet so that I could once again provide for and take care of my family."

He tried almost every method of treatment--be it Western medicine, Chinese herbal medicine, or physical therapy. Fang-mei even took a two-year unpaid leave from her job and went everywhere with him in search of a cure.

Six months after the accident, Zhen-xin had undergone three operations and taken all kinds of medicine that were said to have curative effects. The enormous medical expenses he incurred soon drained his savings.

"I always believed that I would get well, so I spared no expense on seeking treatments. By the time I realized that I would never recover, I had used up all my money. Right at this critical juncture, Tzu Chi volunteers appeared." After learning of the difficult financial situation Zhen-xin and his family were in, Tzu Chi decided to provide them with long-term care and monetary aid.

"I think Heaven has been rather nice to me--at least I still have my wife and children with me," Zhen-xin remarked. "I never feel I've lost anything, especially spiritually."


" If we can reduce our desires, there is nothing really worth getting upset about. "
Jing-Si Aphorism