Thanks, Mom, for fighting our family's toughest battle

By Bai Ping ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-05-21 09:03:15

I thought hard for weeks about what to get my mom this Mother's Day. Usually a phone call would make her very happy. But this year I wanted to do something more to tell that special woman in my life how much I appreciate her love and dedication.

Thanks, Mom, for fighting our family's toughest battle

8 great movies to watch with your mom 

Thanks, Mom, for fighting our family's toughest battle

10 special things to do for Mother's Day 

In the end, I bought her a case of yellow wine. It is an inexpensive, sedative alcoholic beverage popular with Chinese working-class people and the elderly, who believe a small daily intake of the brew helps them overcome fatigue and fall asleep more easily - the two things my mother needs the most as she leads our ongoing family battle against hardship.

Our lives were plunged into chaos about six months ago when my father, 76, had a stroke on the day he and my mother came to visit us in Beijing. After undergoing sophisticated medical procedures at top hospitals in the city, he finally woke up and has since been struggling with the difficult journey of rehabilitation.

For weeks when my father was under intensive care, my mother was the key contact person, living in a hotel close to the hospital so she could be present whenever doctors required, while we juggled work and raised a child. When my father started rehabilitation therapy at hospital, she stayed by his bedside as long as she was permitted. One month after the stroke, before the Chinese New Year festival, my father returned home at the urging of my mother.

Although doctors had given their permission, we knew the real reason for the early discharge: My mother was worried the mounting hospital bills would soon wipe out the family savings.

During individual sessions with doctors, we had been prepared for the high cost of my father's treatment and post-operation recovery. But we were still stunned by hospital bills that amounted to more than 400,000 yuan ($64,000) in the first month. There is no immediate end in sight either, as Dad's recovery promises to be a long process.Thanks, Mom, for fighting our family's toughest battle

Healthcare is a serious, chronic problem for retirees who live with their children in cities other than where they collect their pensions. Under the Chinese medical insurance policy, non-resident retirees must pay out of their own pockets at hospitals, only to be reimbursed by their medical insurance provider when they return to their hometowns. The practice discourages cash-strapped migrant patients from visiting hospitals. Those who do are anxious, as they are often left in the dark about how much they can eventually claim, because medical benefits vary from region to region, depending on the local financial situations and policies.

The rampant over-prescription of medicines in Chinese hospitals exacerbates the situation. Many doctors recommend expensive, imported drugs that cannot be claimed by patients, but will fetch kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies.

So my mother, 72, who had been a nurse in a public hospital before she retired, has decided to take care of my father at home by herself. Every day, she cooks and feeds him; she helps him use the toilet and cleans the bed; she massages his legs and helps him from the bed to his wheelchair. All the while she tries to chat with him. When he has problems remembering a word, they laugh about it together.

While we agree that it would be better to send my father back to a convalescent program, my mother is determined to take him back to their town when his condition improves further, so he can take advantage of his healthcare coverage and there will be no more new, horrendous debts for us.

She has started to drink the yellow wine before going to bed, which she says is the secret of her own mother's longevity. Grandma, 93, is still alive and well, despite a tough, hardworking life. I hope she is right.

Editor's Picks
Hot words

Most Popular