Tibetan Parents' Tribute to Volunteer Doctor

October 11, 2017  Editor: Joyce Dong

After just a week in Tibet's Tsonyi County, Dr Huo Zhiping has had two babies named after him, because he performed cesareans on their mothers.

Huo, an obstetrician with a medical team from the Central Hospital of China National Petroleum Corp, is working as a volunteer in the region for the summer.

The newborns, Huo Dangsheng and Huo Yousheng, were the first babies delivered via cesarean section in the county.

With her baby in her arms, Chode remembers her fear about his birth. She was diagnosed with an amniotic fluid deficiency and the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's neck.

"Chode needed a cesarean, but we had never performed one," said Changchub Drolma, head of the People's Hospital of Tsonyi County, the county's only hospital.

Expectant mothers like Chode are usually transferred to Lhasa, a journey of more than 700 kilometers on mountain roads. "The trip was perilous for both mothers and babies," Changchub Drolma said.

Chode was fortunate as the medical team was only in the county for a week.

"On the plateau, it's hard to know the condition of mother and baby with such little natural oxygen," said Zhang Yanzong, who led the medical team.

Huo said Chode was 36 years old, which made complications such as postpartum bleeding more likely.

The altitude also affected the doctors who had to perform the operation. They had to use bottled oxygen themselves. "A lack of oxygen makes you slow in your reactions," Huo said.

New father Pasang said the couple named their son after Huo so he would remember who had saved his life.

The following day, 28-year-old Sangye Drolma, came to the hospital from a township more than 200 kilometers away. She showed signs that giving birth would be difficult. However, after a cesarean lasting around 70 minutes, her daughter was born. She also named the girl after Huo.

The stories reminded Yang Wensheng, Tsonyi's Party secretary, of his own family.

Yang's mother had a difficult delivery when giving birth to his older sister in northwest China's Shaanxi Province over 60 years ago. The doctor on duty told his parents that only one could survive, the mother or the baby.

But a doctor named Yang rushed to hospital from home and performed surgery that saved both mother and child.

"My father felt so indebted that he decided to name my sister after the doctor. He even said no matter how many children he had, they would all be named Yang," he said.

The Tibetan family kept its word. All nine children have the surname Yang.

Home delivery was preferred in rural Tibet, causing high maternal and infant mortality. Not only did Tibetans believe that home births were more "natural," it was also difficult for many expectant mothers who lived in remote areas to get to hospital.

In 1951, Tibet's maternal and infant mortality rates stood at 50 and 430 per 1,000 respectively. The figures had dropped to 1 and 16 per 1,000 in 2015.

Behind the change is improved medical care and more acceptance of hospital births.

Huo's team received more than 950 patients and performed four operations, including the two cesareans, during their week in the county.

"Most of patients traveled over 200 kilometers to see us. I was touched by their trust," Huo said.

Before leaving, he put photos of the two Tibetan babies in his suitcase.

"I started missing this place before I even left, missing my 'daughter' and 'son'," he said.

(Source: Shanghai Daily)

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