Single mum’s love and bravery sees disabled son through to Harvard

BEIJING: A famous saying by English poet George Herbert goes “One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters.”

In the case of Ding Zheng (pic), who was born with cerebral palsy, his mother Zou Hongyan is worth a thousand schoolmasters and more.

“I felt so happy when his little feet gently kicked my abdomen, and his heart beat together with mine, like dancers in a ballroom,” Zou said.

After giving birth, Zou went to the ward where her baby was, only to find him especially “quiet,” neither crying nor frowning after a nurse gave him his injections.

Her child was left with intrauterine hypoxia due to medical negligence, but she refused to take her baby off life support.

“There is little value in saving it. I suggest you give up,” a doctor at Jingzhou District Hospital told Zou and her family in 1988.

“He will make our life miserable,” her husband said.

“You’re too stubborn to listen to the doctor’s advice, so you can take care of him,” said Zou’s husband.

Zou would eventually divorce her husband when Ding turned 10 due to differences over Ding.

With continuous treatment at the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Tradi­tional Chinese Medicine, a doctor finally found Ding’s intelligence was normal at one-year-old.

“Many hypoxic brain damage patients have low intelligence. I think in Ding’s case, his mother’s unwavering support for early, continuous treatment played a key role in his recovery,” said Xiao Daiqi, a doctor at the department of paediatrics at the hospital.

However, there were still physical challenges due to his cerebral palsy.

“Early and continuous treatment for cerebral palsy patients is crucial,” the doctor said.

Insurance did not cover Ding’s rehabilitation, so Zou took on many part-time jobs, including selling insurance for five years.

“Once as she carried me by bike to the hospital, the bike fell over in the mud. When my mum helped me up, the bike fell down; when she lifted the bike, I fell down.

“When we reached the hospital, both of us were covered with mud,” said Ding.

Her efforts would pay off.

“The first time he stood up, walked and called me ‘mummy’ is the happiest moment in my life,” Zou said.

Some may say Zou shows her son a lot of “tough love.”

For instance, using chopsticks is a very difficult task for Ding, and many friends tried to persuade Zou to allow him to quit.

“If he is the only one who does not use them at the table, he will have to explain he has cerebral palsy,” said Zou, whose strict guidance taught Ding to use them.

“I don’t want him to feel ashamed about his illness, so I have higher requirements of him,” said Zou.

But Zou neither helped Ding with his homework nor forced him to participate in training courses.

“Her catch-phrase is ‘Don’t ask me questions about your homework, I’m illiterate,’ which I guess is also educational,” said Ding.

Zou treats Ding as an equal and likes to discuss important issues with him, and Ding feels treating each other as equals is the basis of their healthy relationship.

“Lots of parents show strong eloquence at work, but are bewildered by their children, failing to discuss with their kids in an earnest way.

“My mum convinces me with arguments and stories when we have different opinions,” said Ding.

In March 2016, Ding was admitted by the Law School of Harvard University after working as a lawyer for a year.

“I’ve never dared to apply for Harvard University, but my mm always encouraged me,” said Ding.

“I want to work harder and make enough money to guarantee my mother a better life,” Ding said. — China Daily/Asia News Network

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