Li Hongfang has had to endure the unimagined effects of an untreated incursion for the last 11 years with horrific consequences. But after a local Chinese story caught the attention of Western media agencies her story soon attained new momentum and it was then that Li Hongfang had received the good news that she never imagined hearing: that a hospital would tend to her grievous distortion for free.
At first when Li Hongfang noticed swelling on her forehead back in 2001 she thought little of it. That then changed when the swelling became more permanent and abrupt but once again because this time she did not have the fare to travel to a city hospital she reasoned that it would only be a matter of time that the swelling would go down. Yet over the course of the next eleven years later, the swelling never went down, even after she did manage to get some surgery in 2005 the swelling would return, continuing to grow and distort itself as it soon became apparent Li Hongfang was in the throngs of a rare bone cancer, called Chordoma, that if left untreated would eventually extinguish her.
By now almost unrecognizable from her former pretty self, the tumor had continued to grow under her skin, distorting her features and eventually leading her to being shunned by local villagers. It was only after an open outcry led to a shaming of that region’s health care facilities that one day saw a hospital in Xi’an, the capital in a province in the China’s northwest Shaanxi Province which offered to carry out the surgery which would have otherwise set Li Hongfang back over 60 000 pounds. An amount a peasant woman like Li Hongfang could never hope to finance.
Offered Li Hongfang after the operation: ‘I feel my head is lighter, and I must look better. I want to save the big time to the time when the surgery swelling goes down. It could be the best gift to me.
I just want to look normal again, like I feel inside. I’m not a monster and I don’t want to look like one.
For his part, chief surgeon Guo Shuzhong said that Li Hongfang’s surgery was very successful and that Li would have to return later in the year to remove tumors that had came to rest in her skull, nasal cavaties and throat.
At present officials are debating a programme which aims to provide health insurance for all its 1.3billion people by 2020, but at present, the health system falls far behind the needs of those it is supposed to be treating, which isn’t good news considering the millions of Chinese people who live in the countryside and like Li Hongfang can not access regional care or are simply too poor to even pay for it in the first place. Li Hongfang in the end may turn out to be one of the lucky ones but one can almost bet that there are many others just like her with debilitating situations whose story may never come out.