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Guangzhou doctors offer free surgeries

By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily)

08:41, July 12, 2012

Doctors in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, began to provide free surgery on Wednesday to a group of Tibetan children with congenital heart disease.

The operations are part of a charity program launched in May by the China Charity Federation. Free surgery will be provided to Tibetan children with the disease, which can be fatal if untreated.

Five out of the first group of 30 children, ranging in age from 1 to 18 years old, successfully received the surgery on Wednesday at the General Hospital of Guangzhou Military Command of the People's Liberation Army, said Zhang Weida, director of the hospital's cardiothoracic surgery department.

"We have had a full understanding of their health condition. They will be as healthy as other children after the operations," said Zhang.

Of the five children, the youngest is only 1 year old, Zhang said.

"It took us nearly two hours to conduct the operation for the child. Fortunately, everything went smoothly," Zhang said.

Zhang and four other doctors from the hospital had traveled to the remote counties of Nagqu, Baingoin and Nyima in the Tibet autonomous region since June 29 to give free medical checks to more than 600 children.

"These children live in a very harsh natural condition. We are very impressed by their willingness to look for a better life," said Zhang.

In Baingoin county, Zhang drove more than 40 kilometers to visit Phuntsog Lhamo, a 10-year-old girl who has been living with her grandfather after her parents left her behind when she was only 6 years old.

"Her disease is not very serious. But it poses a great threat to her life if it is left untreated. So I decided to bring her to Guangzhou," Zhang said.

The girl, who was accompanied by her grandfather in the hospital, was among the first five to receive the surgery on Wednesday.

"In Tibetan, her name sounds like 'beautiful fairy.' She will gradually recover within 10 days and we wish she will become a true fairy," Zhang said.

Two hours after the surgery, the girl could speak a little after she was moved to an intensive care unit.

"I miss my parents. I wish to see them soon after the operation," she said.

In addition to the first group of 30 children, 85 more Tibetan children with congenital heart disease will come to Guangzhou for free treatment in the near future, Zhang aid.

In Beijing, nearly 150 children from Tibet with the disease have received the operation since May 17.

In addition to the nationwide charity program, the General Hospital of Guangzhou Military Command of the PLA in 2006 launched a similar project, in which more than 4,400 children from seven provinces and autonomous regions have successfully received operations for the congenital heart disease.

Most children with the disease can be as healthy as others if the operations are successful, Zhang said.

Tenzin Choden, an 11-year-old Tibetan boy who received an operation for the disease in Beijing in June, said he can play soccer now.

The boy now works as a volunteer with the children in Guangzhou, helping them communicate with doctors.

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