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Lan Xiao Hua had congenital heart disease (CHD), a hole in the right ventricle of her heart. She was already 13; doctors said she would only live to be about 20. This defect caused her to tire easily during even the simplest everyday activities; walking and breathing were excruciating. Lan desperately needed open heart surgery, but the money necessary for her operation constituted 10 years of her family’s income. It was 10 years Lan didn’t have, so her parents could do nothing but wait for time to take their child away.
When Angel Heart International (AHI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children with CHD in China and other developing countries, met Lan in a local clinic, AHI volunteers decided to follow up with a visit to her home. After the accompanying doctor performed a preliminary checkup on Lan and assessed the severity of her condition, the volunteers reviewed her family’s financial status and discussed the best available treatment. Little by little, they learned Lan’s story.
Her dad, ardently devoted to his daughters, had continued to send both Lan and her older sister to school, hoping against hope that his youngest child could still have a chance at a happy future. Despite all obstacles, they were both exceptional students; Lan shyly presented a composition she had written at school, words carefully inscribed on the yellowed sheets of a small notebook.
A rough interpretation translates:
I Love the Little Grass of Spring
“When spring comes, the earth wakes up. Tree leaves sprout while flowers begin to blossom. Swallows fly from the south, singing enchanting songs and lovely tunes. I love the feeling of spring. I love the green little grass of spring.
On the hill, there’s a spot of green grass. They’re full of spirit, full of infectious vitality. When spring comes, they cover Mother Earth. I look, carefully: the shoots are fresh green, the essence of beauty and life. And I lie on the grass, touch it with my hands; it is so soft. When a gust of wind whisks by, the grass dances with delight. Watching them makes me feel so happy and content.
Some people say grass is too weak, too delicate. They never realized that it can be found everywhere: on the mountains, in the valleys, on the hills, on the yellow earth. They use their vibrant green bodies to decorate Mother Earth. Look, they lower their head and converse with her.
Little grass, I want to be like you, contributing to the motherland, not for money, not for fame, but for the idea of sheer perseverance in even the toughest circumstances.”
On June 24, 2008, Lan’s patience and determination were rewarded when she successfully underwent a surgical operation for her CHD, funded through AHI donations and aid. Right before Lan was rolled into the operation room, other volunteers arrived to meet the family and offer support, giving comfort to both the children and the anxious parents. Finally, after the one-and-a-half-hour surgery, they and the surgeons emerged smiling to greet the anxiously waiting family. The operation was a success. When they broke the happy news, Lan’s sister rushed out of the hospital and very quietly began to cry.
I am a 16-year-old volunteer in AHI and, unlike many of the other volunteers, I’ve only been a part of this project for about a year. However, even within this short period of time, I’ve grown to cherish this organization and its mission. AHI showed me that in the end, it is money that makes it possible to create one miracle, but human compassion that inspires many others.
Like many other AHI family visits, the willingness to personally understand each child’s situation established a deep mutual trust between the family and Angel Heart members. I myself came to know them on a deeper level, beyond just their faces and names; by becoming familiar with the children’s personal accounts and lives, I write to define children less by their disease but by the simple everyday things that make them who they are. I focus not on the poverty I witnessed when I visited these families, but of the happiness and hope AHI brought to the “little grass” of their lives. I write this with love because Lan Xiao Hua’s story is of love.
As all Angel Heart International’s stories are of love.