Monday, 02. March 2015
09. 07. 14. - 15:00
This black and white picture of a little girl who has spent all of her life in a cage bed in a 12-square-metre room in a Chinese hospital has helped to reunite her with family after the snap was shared thousands of times on social media sites.
The young girl's tragic story started when her mother was admitted to hospital in Shanghai in January 2012 aged 19-years-old and 9 months pregnant. She gave birth to twins, one of whom died at birth, leaving only the second child who was eventually named simply Alimu.
The girl's mother who was from Aksu Prefecture in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was told that one of the babies had died, but because she did not speak Mandarin Chinese and because medics in the hospital could not speak Uygur which was her language, there was a breakdown in communication. As a result of the teenager left the hospital without her daughter, believing she was also dead.
Alimu was left alone in the hospital where she was raised by medics in the 12-square-metre sterile room.
Du Yingmin, a head nurse who has been looking after Alimu since she has been in the hospital, said: "She is a wonderful child but because we didn't have the permission of her parents we were unable to vaccinate her, which is usually common with all children aged under six. Because she didn't receive vaccinations she had to stay in a sterile room. She had many visitors, all of the doctors and nurses here have become surrogate parents and she is really loved – but it's clear that it wasn't helping her growing up in this environment - despite all the toys and attention."
Although normally abandoned children are placed in the care of the state, by chance one of the girl's relatives, her aunt, had been identified but had apparently refused to get involved or to tell the rest of the family that the child was there. That meant that the girl could not be adopted because her family were known and by refusing to act, the aunt effectively sentenced Alimu to a life in the hospital.
Du Yingmin said: "It left Alimu in limbo because as a relative had been traced she could not be sent to a home or adopted. It also meant that she didn't have an official identity without which she was unable to travel anywhere."
That all changed when local media picked up her story and this black and white image started to be shared. One of those people who took up the cause was Ha Ni, who said: "It touched me that so many people are caring for Alimu. As an Aksu native, I thought that I should also help her. I asked my relatives and friends in Xinjiang for help and contacted the hospital for as much detail as possible, and incredibly one of my pals managed to track down Alimu’s maternal grandfather, a hat seller.
"When he saw photos of Alimu, he was almost certain that the girl was his granddaughter as she looked almost the same as his daughter when she was a child. He was horrified that nobody had realised she was alive and that she was living in a hospital ward."
Ha Ni funded flight tickets for the girl's grandfather and mother Lu, now aged 22, who both turned up with gifts for the child.
Lu said that she had got pregnant when she was 19 but the girl's father, who was a drug addict, had abandoned them after they had moved to the city. Losing her children had been a wake-up call to put her life back on track and she had returned home to her family, had got a job and had married.
The mother has had to undergo a DNA test and after 15 days when the results confirm the story she will be allowed to leave with her daughter. But medics are convinced that Alimu has found her real family, and doctors and nurses have been busily buying her presents and having photographs taken with the child who won over so many hearts.
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