All parents want to share every single moment with their children. This is also the dream of Dongsheng Wang, but he nearly missed it.
Wang is 37 years old and he lives with his wife and daughter in a small village outside Hohhot, Inner Mongolia in Northern China. They live in a rented space with no rooms and limited furniture: a big bed where everyone sleeps, a sofa, some cabinets and a table. There is a small cooking corner but no washroom. The family needs to step outside the house to use the toilet and a shower, which is especially difficult in the harsh winter. Besides supporting his family, Wang also needs to take care of his mother and grandmother.
Wang used to drive a lorry to make ends meet. Although life is not especially easy, the family is happy together. Big posters of their five-year-old daughter Yueqing are all over the house.
Then one day, Wang suddenly lost his sight. He said, “I thought I had short-sightedness and went for a pair of glasses. The situation improved a bit but it got worse again soon. I got another pair of glasses but that did not help.”
Wang has been a diabetes patient for years. He only discovered that he had diabetic retinopathy after he had a check-up at the hospital.
Retinopathy can weaken blood vessels in the retina and cause fluid and blood to leak into the eye, which sometimes results in blurred vision. It can progress, with fragile new blood vessels growing within the retina, which can rupture easily and bleed, leading to a catastrophic drop in vision.
Wang went through a laser treatment and temporarily solved the problem. He also joined a diabetes club co-organized by The Fred Hollows Foundation and Chaoju Ophthalmology Hospital in Hohhot. The club provides patients with regular information on diabetes, arranges regular check-ups for them and provides discounts in treatments.
However the problem did not stop there. Diabetes also induced cataract in Wang’s eyes. “My sight went worse. I can only see white during daytime.”
Diabetes is growing among the Chinese population. According to World Health Organization figures in 2016, diabetes patients numbered more than 110 million people and almost 10% of all adults in China have diabetes. The Fred Hollows Foundations worked with national and provincial government departments to organize eye screenings and eye health education, so as to allow early detection and diagnosis of avoidable blindness.
Wang had no choice because of his deteriorating sight but to change from being a truck driver to a security guard, which cut in his monthly salary by two-thirds. This impacted the family hugely.
He said, “The financial burden became heavier and I feel bad.” There are more quarrels in the family. Besides daily family chores, Wang’s wife also found a job at a nearby restaurant while their daughter was at school.
In the end, what worried Wang most was the education of his daughter, Yueqing.
When Wang’s eyesight was still good, he loved spending time with Yueqing on her homework. It was the closest and sweetest moment between the father and daughter.
“Now I can only help her by listening,” said Wang. Yueqing would recite the answers of her mathematics homework to her father for checking. However Wang could not help with her writing.
When Wang needed the bathroom, Yueqing would hold her father’s hand and lead him out. Instead of enjoying a happy childhood, Yueqing had to take care of her father.
I could not see if she let go of my hands, and she could not freely go play outside the house.
- Dongsheng Wang
The heavy financial burden nearly crushed the close family. The couple had to juggle between Wang’s medical fees and rent, and also Yueqing’s school fees. But no matter what it would take, they strived to provide a good future for the little girl.
Still young and under family pressure, Wang decided to have cataract surgeries. Wang walked out of the operating theatre by himself after the 15-minute operation. His sight was successfully restored. All he needs to do is to do have regular check-ups at The Foundation’s partner hospital.
The change did not only happen for Wang, but it also restored the relations in the family. Mrs Wang said, “Now Dongsheng feels much better, and we don’t argue like before.”
Wang can go back to driving and often spends the weekend with his wife and daughter. He said, “My biggest hope is to make more money, and help Yueqing with her homework.”
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