Mother of boy with cerebral palsy helps introduce effective treatment to others in similar situations across the border
Woman from Russia coordinates care
On Mariia Kilian’s desk is an enormous stack of notebooks labeled with the names of dozens of Russian children with cerebral palsy.
She records the condition and treatment information about each of the children in the corresponding notebook and organizes them so they are easy to refer to.
Kilian, 48, has been a volunteer at the China Disabled Persons Federation’s Cerebral Palsy Rehabilitation Center in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, since arriving from Nakhodka, Russia, in 2010.
“Since 2009, our effective treatment methods have attracted nearly 500 new patients from Russia,” said Liu Lu, the director of the center
Mariia’s 12-year-old son, Zakhar, is one of them.
He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was 2 years old, and in the following three years, he was given treatment at hospitals in Moscow, which cost his family about $700,000. However, the treatment had almost no effect.
“At that time, I tried my best to find information about effective treatments,” Kilian said.
“It gave me great hope when I found out online about the Cerebral Palsy Rehabilitation Center, so I decided to bring my son to Harbin.”
They arrived in the northeastern city in April 2010, and Zakhar’s brain function began to improve after just a few months of treatment.
Kilian was able to relax more and began paying attention to other Russian families at the center.
Since she can speak some Mandarin, she began to help her fellow Russians communicate with the doctors in her spare time.
“As a mother whose child has the disease, I can empathize with parents who are in the same situation,” Kilian said. “So I hope I can do something to help them.”
When a doctor at the center told Kilian that her son required long-term rehabilitation over a matter of years, she made a decision.
“My son likes Harbin very much and he has made several friends at the center, so I decided to stay in Harbin instead of regularly traveling between the two countries,” Kilian said.
She rented an apartment near the center and employed an overseas student from Russia to help her look after Zakhar.
“I know there are lots of children with cerebral palsy in Russia and I hope I can introduce information to their parents about the effective treatment at the center,” she said.
By coincidence, Liu had the same idea.
“We constructed a website in Russian, on which people can find detailed information about the center,” Liu said.
“We hope to improve the condition of more patients through quality treatment at our center.”
Mariia was seen as an ideal candidate for the job of communicating with Russian speakers.
The center provided her with her own office, and when she is not looking after her son, she spends most of her time at the center.
Through the internet, she introduces the center to Russians who want to learn more about it and sends invitations to those who want to receive treatment at the center.
Kilian became a translator and guide for Russians arriving in Harbin for treatment at the center. She is now a popular figure with Chinese and Russian children at the center.
For Lin Lin, a 7-year-old Chinese patient, what he enjoys most is talking with his Russian “aunt”.
Every day, Kilian takes some time to chat with Lin and accompany him during his rehabilitation training.
“Lin Lin can now walk several steps independently and it makes me feel happy when he wants to hug me,” Kilian said, smiling.
In order to keep the children in high spirits, Mariia often plays games with them and introduces traditional Western festivals to them.
“At Easter, Kilian brought her hand-painted Easter eggs to the center, and the children loved them,” Liu said.
Every time Mariia goes back to Russia for visa purposes, she always buys orthopedic shoes for the Chinese children at the center, as their parents are unable to find them in China.
“It is not difficult for me to go shopping, but it is important for those children who need the shoes to help them stand up,” she said.
“Maybe I will live in Harbin for the rest of my life, despite feeling homesick.
“The center has helped me enormously and given me great hope for my son’s rehabilitation. I love the city and so does my son — I just want to give him the life he wants.”
Mariia Kilian watches a Russian cerebral palsy patient exercise at the Cerebral Palsy Rehabilitation Center in Harbin, capital of the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.
Kilian visits a Russian mother and her child at the center.