Ma Li (R) does prenatal examination for a Tibetan woman Wu Sanmi at the village clinic. [China.org.cn/Pan Songgang]
There is a small clinic in Luoju Village, Mianning County of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in southwest China's Sichuan Province. Ma Li, 35, has worked in quiet obscurity here as a doctor for 16 years.
After graduating from a local medical school in 2001, Ma volunteered to work in this small village, subsequently forging an indissoluble bond with the local people.
Luoju Village is located in a remote mountainous area, impoverished, and backward, where a dearth of doctors and medicines is still common.
Ma Li tirelessly gives medical treatment to the villagers whenever they fall ill. She begins to attend patients visiting her clinic early in the morning and finishes late at night. She usually receives 10-40 patients a day. She also visits the patients at their homes. As the only doctor in the village, she is always on call.
For the patients from extremely poor families, Ma offers them free diagnosis, treatment and medicines. Zhao Huansheng, a 68-year-old living alone is one of them. He has suffered from severe hypertension for many years. Ma often visits him at home to give him free medicines for his condition.
Ma's clinic is a two-story shabby shack built on a cliff. She keeps the rooms clean and tidy, with medicines and medical devices placed in very orderly fashion. The sound of rushing streams in the mountains and a cold, howling wind can be heard clearly, particularly in the still of night.
The clinic was built 16 years ago by Ma Li and local villagers with stones, slates, wood and mud. Now, it has become quite well known by local people, and Ma is a symbol of hope for them when falling ill.
Ma said the poverty in the area was far beyond her expectation when she first arrived. "Some pregnant woman simply laid a straw mat on the ground and gave birth. The scene was just too horrifying to look at," she said.
Learning that every year one or two women died in delivery, Ma made up her mind to rely on her knowledge and strength to avoid or reduce the tragedy and help rid the locality of its backwardness.
She treats her patients with sympathy. She has gathered a wealth of experience by working in this small clinic and in seeking to heal various challenging diseases. For serious cases, she will take the patients to a nearby town hospital immediately to receive better treatment.
She is experienced in midwifery and has safely delivered 476 babies in the past 16 years. Unfortunately, however, she couldn't keep her own child. Once, on her way to visit a patient at night, the three-month pregnant Ma accidentally fell down a cliff and suffered a miscarriage. The fall severely damaged her uterus, so preventing her becoming pregnant again.
The miscarriage was a heavy blow. She was so grief-stricken that she couldn't wait to get out of a place now so filled with sadness. And then, on the second day when she was about to leave, the news spread like wildfire, and soon everyone in the village knew it and came to see her off.
The villagers were reluctant to let her leave. Among the crowd, a child cried bitterly and begged her to stay by clutching her leg. Ma recognized the child was one delivered by herself. They clung to each other, weeping bitterly; at that moment Ma gave up the idea of leaving.
She now happily shares the comforts and hardships of the villagers. Because of her enthusiasm and sincerity, Ma has become the most trusted person to the villagers and their best friend. They can find her whenever they need her. They like to vent their pent-up grievances to her and ask her for advice.
Once a month, Ma Li travels to downtown Mianning to purchase medicines and medical instruments, and each time it takes her 20 hours to complete the journey on rugged mountain paths. It is gratifying that a river bridge has recently been opened, bringing great convenience to local people.
Ma's husband works in another town. The couple meets and parts with each other hurriedly, so Ma has to take care of herself and do the housework alone.
Recalling the old days, when she had just arrived, the villagers were skeptical about her ability to stay long in such a poor area. Now, she has proved with her actual deeds that she is a person true to her promise. "Since I am here, I may as well stay, make the best of it and never give up."
Ma Li is on her way to visit a patient. She has worked as a doctor in a small clinic in Luoju Village, Mianning County, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province, for 16 years. [China.org.cn/Pan Songgang]
Doctor Ma Li makes herself up in front of a broken mirror hung on the wall of her clinic. [China.org.cn/Pan Songgang]
Upon receiving an emergency call, Doctor Ma Li hurries to visit the patient with a heavy medical kit in her hand. [China.org.cn/Pan Songgang]
In a visit to local villagers, Doctor Ma Li plays with Guo Zhengpeng, a boy she delivered. [China.org.cn/Pan Songgang]
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