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Learning to love life again, one step at a time

By Dara Wang | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-31 08:44

Learning to love life again, one step at a time

Heinrich Popow takes a selfie with trainees on the last day of the Running Clinic in Hong Kong. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

Water tower collapse

The campus had a water tower. Yu saw a group of students standing near it, washing their hands. As Yu walked past the tower, it crashed to the ground. Instinctively, she pushed aside a young man ahead of her, but she was buried by the rubble.

Yu awoke in a clinic. She couldn't feel anything, but she remembered a persistent dream in which two friends she couldn't see were calling out to her. At the time, she didn't know that her friends, who had also been at the scene, had died in the collapse and their bodies were lying beneath the shattered masonry.

When she regained consciousness, she saw blood gushing from her leg. "I didn't cry. I reassured my family and told them not to be afraid, and then I lost consciousness again," she recalled.

Peonies were Yu's favorite flowers. For her, their lavish, blood-red petals were symbols of life. When the time came for the surgery to amputate her shattered leg, a friend brought her a peony. Yu's mother remembered how her daughter gripped the stalk until the juice ran down her arm, but she hung on and didn't shed a single tear.

It was nearly two months before Yu could make any sense of the world again. The first thing she remembered was peonies, everywhere, in every part of her room.

Then, she suddenly realized that her right leg was missing. "If the window had not been beyond my reach, I would have committed suicide," she said.

The amputation greatly limited Yu's mobility, but worse still, it took away her self-confidence. She was fitted with an artificial leg, which seemed pretty close to the real thing, but wasn't the same.

Shattered dreams

Once she started living again, Yu began a career in sales. Although she excelled at the job, her dreams were all gone. The memory of what had happened to her and her friends hung over her like a dark cloud wherever she went.

"I'm not willing to go in disguise, as an amputee. I just can't do that," she said.

The cloud hung over her for decades. Then, earlier this year, she summoned the courage to attend a three-day event called the Running Clinic. It wasn't until the last day that she ran, for the first time in more than 40 years. She called it "one of the most meaningful days of my life".

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