Our due diligence team have one of the toughest jobs at Sea Star. They are usually meeting parents in their most desperate hour. Time after time, we learned about how tough life is for many of these families. Usually the parents are taking care of their child as well as aging grandparents with health conditions. Families often have to sell their belongings to pay for the surgeries.
Even with the tough circumstances, it was very moving to see how much love these parents have for their children and how far they were willing to go to save them. Volunteers usually meet these families in the hospital or at a temporary lodging while they are waiting for treatment. One comment from a volunteer that stayed with us over the years, is that when she visited a child named Yanyan and her family several times, both in the hospital and the shack where they were living temporarily. She was surprised by how downtrodden the shack was, but Yanyan’s mother always dressed her neatly in pretty frilly clothes and intricately braided her hair each day.
We first met Xuanxuan in Oct 2019, just days before his 7th birthday. Even though he had barely just started school, this little superhero had already undergone three major heart surgeries and was preparing for his fourth and final surgery.
In 2012, only one day after he was born, Xuanxuan was diagnosed with congenital heart disease. His parents lived in a rural part of Henan Province, and had to travel to Shanghai to seek treatment. Even in Shanghai, his first two surgeries in 2013 and 2014, were beset with complications.
Xuanxuan’s parents worked miscellaneous jobs and farm a tiny plot of land where they grow wheat and soybeans, earning around 3,000 USD per year. With this, they also care for Xuanxuan’s older brother and one set of grandparents. The cost of Xuanxuan’s surgeries ran to around 20,000 USD each. Xuanxuan’s parents work hard but this figure is nearly impossible for them. As a result, they are reliant on the partial insurance coverage as well as support from various non-profits like Sea Star to help fund the surgeries. Collaborating with three other non-profits, Sea Star contributed 3,000 USD to Xuanxuan’s successful surgery in Nov 2019.
In July 2020, Xuanxuan’s dad sent us a photo of him proudly showing off an award from school for good grades, on his way to a healthier life!
Yingying was only a few months old when she was diagnosed with a severe form of CHD which required immediate corrective heart surgery. She was also susceptible to respiratory infections and became dangerously ill with pneumonia three times. Doctor’s informed her parents that without surgery, she had little chance of surviving past her first year.
Working with a local partner, Sea Star quickly arranged the funds to fill the funding gap. In the days following the operation, Yingying recovery was slower than expected and remained in the ICU for several days. Sea Star volunteers visited the hospital to check on her progress and offer support to her worried parents. Much to everyone’s relief, Yingying condition soon stabilized. Sea Star volunteers visited her a a few weeks later, as she was about to return home to Hebei, and gifted her a teddy bear.
Sea Star checked in with Yingying’s parents 10 years later in Dec 2021. Yingying is already a healthy 11 year-old girl who loves dancing and wants to be a professional dancer when she grows up. And she has still kept the teddy bear after all these years.