Ser­vice gives hope to be­reaved par­ents

Plan of­fers free med­i­cal checks to moth­ers who lost first child

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By WANG HONGYI in Shang­hai wanghongyi@ chi­

Three years af­ter Li Xia lost her daugh­ter in a traf­fic ac­ci­dent, her grief continues to con­sume her.

“She was 18, do­ing ex­cel­lently at school and wanted to en­ter a pres­ti­gious univer­sity,” said Li, 43, who re­quested an alias.

Li and her hus­band never en­joyed the ad­van­tages of col­lege ed­u­ca­tions and pinned all their hopes for the fu­ture on their daugh­ter. “But now it’s all over. I of­ten see her face when I feel lonely,” she said.

The loss dev­as­tated Li and her fam­ily. On ad­vice from rel­a­tives and friends, she de­cided to try to have an­other child. “I know I’m not young. But I still want to try, to es­cape the lone­li­ness,” she said.

A hot­line and spe­cial­ized out­pa­tient med­i­cal ser­vice have given a flicker of hope for moth­ers like Li.

The city’s first fer­til­ity hot­line — 021-6525555 — was cre­ated by the Shang­hai Char­ity Foun­da­tion and a lo­cal ma­ter­nity hospi­tal.

“In 2013, we opened the hot­line pro­vid­ing free con­sul­ta­tion for cou­ples who lost their child and want to have an­other,’’ said Yu Jun, a staff mem­ber at the Shidai Foun­da­tion, which runs the hot­line un­der the Shang­hai Char­ity Foun­da­tion. The Shidai Foun­da­tion fo­cuses on mother and child care.

“We had many calls and we felt that it was nec­es­sary to ex­pand the ser­vice. Then we es­tab­lished an out­pa­tient ser­vice and pro­vided fi­nan­cial aid,” Yu said.

The out­pa­tient ser­vice of­fers free tests for be­reaved moth­ers of an ad­vanced age, in­clud­ing fal­lop­ian tube X-rays, ul­tra­sound scans and blood tests.

Li has re­ceived 30,000 yuan ($4,900) in fi­nan­cial aid from the Shidai Foun­da­tion, along with a se­ries of health checks and other med­i­cal ser­vices.

Ac­cord­ing to the foun­da­tion, the fund­ing will be done in stages. The first batch of fund­ing is about 500,000 yuan.

Women’s fer­til­ity drops once they reach 35 and as­sisted re­pro­duc­tion tech­nol­ogy, such as in vitro fer­til­iza­tion, may be needed to help them con­ceive. This can cost about 20,000 yuan to 30,000 yuan.

There is an added ur­gency be­cause the first gen­er­a­tion of par­ents from sin­gle-child fam­i­lies are get­ting older, Ma Zhongqi, deputy sec­re­tary­gen­eral of Shang­hai Char­ity Foun­da­tion, told In­ter­na­tional Chan­nel Shang­hai at the of­fi­cial launch of the out­pa­tient ser­vice.

“The num­ber of pa­tients who want to have an­other baby af­ter los­ing their only child has been ris­ing steadily in re­cent years,” said Liu Jiang, the chief physi­cian at Shang­hai Tian­lun Hospi­tal, a hospi­tal that spe­cial­izes in fer­til­ity.

She ad­vised cou­ples in this cat­e­gory to get med­i­cal ad­vice as early as pos­si­ble.

But phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers are not the only ob­sta­cles. There is also the psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma of los­ing a child.

“Af­ter I lost my daugh­ter, I lost the courage to live and at­tempted sui­cide. But my 80-year old mother helped me out of that de­spair and re­minded that I was her daugh­ter and how she would be able to cope if she lost me,’’ said Li.

“The trauma can play havoc with our phys­i­cal con­di­tion which is why it is im­por­tant to try to ease the pain, no mat­ter how dif­fi­cult that may seem.’’

The foun­da­tion pro­vides psy­cho­log­i­cal coun­sel­ing among its ser­vices.

Cou­ples who lose an only child also face the added bur­den of fi­nan­cial in­se­cu­rity, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas, where the child is ex­pected to help take care of his or her el­derly par­ents.

Fig­ures pro­vided by the Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion sug­gest China has at least 1 mil­lion fam­i­lies who have lost an only child, and each year the num­ber in­creases by about 76,000 fam­i­lies.

In the near fu­ture, up to 10 mil­lion fam­i­lies could be in this cat­e­gory, said de­mog­ra­pher Yi Fux­ian. Po­lit­i­cal ad­vis­ers have called for an in­crease in fi­nan­cial sup­port for fam­i­lies in this cat­e­gory, es­pe­cially in re­mote un­der­de­vel­oped ar­eas.

The Shang­hai Women’s Fed­er­a­tion called for the es­tab­lish­ment of a com­pre­hen­sive aid sys­tem to give sup­port to el­derly par­ents who have lost their only child in a pro­posal to the Shang­hai People’s Congress in Fe­bru­ary 2013.

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