Chinese boy, 11, travels 400km alone for leukaemia treatment

Shi Luyao, 11, cries as he recounts going to the hospital to receive treatment for leukaemia on his own.
Shi Luyao, 11, cries as he recounts going to the hospital to receive treatment for leukaemia on his own. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In order not to miss any classes and to save cost, an 11-year-old boy overcame the pain of leukaemia treatment and travelled hundreds of kilometres between his home and the hospital within a day for one year, reported Guiyang Evening Daily last week.

Shi Luyao is from Bengjing village in Liupanshui city, Guizhou province. His mother left him when Luyao was just two because of poverty, and never came back.

The boy has lived with his grandparents since. When Luyao was in third grade, his father took him to Anhui province where he was working.

In 2013, their life was disrupted. Luyao developed a high fever and a medical check-up showed that he had acute lymphocytic leukaemia, a type of leukaemia commonly found in children.

To cure the disease, the boy had to receive long-term chemotherapy.

"My son, you must hold on. I will save you by all means," said the boy's father.

The medical bills for the treatment were high. As the hospital was not in their home province, only 30 per cent of the bill was covered by insurance. Luyao's father was forced to borrow 200,000 yuan (S$40,900) over two years.

In the later stages of the chemotherapy, Luyao was cared for by his grandmother. His father had to go back to work to earn money to afford the treatment.

In August last year, Luyao returned to his hometown in Guizhou province after his condition got better. But he had to have bone marrow biopsy on an irregular basis to monitor the situation.

To ease the financial burden on his family, the boy started going to hospital in Kunming, more than 400km away from his home, to receive treatment himself. He first went by bus to Liupanshui city, where he took a train heading for Kunming.

The first time he went for treatment himself, the boy waited for six hours at the railway station to catch the train heading for Kunming at 3am.

"I wanted to cry, but I did not as I did not want other people to know I was all by myself," said Luyao.

Each time the bone marrow biopsy was finished, Luyao was supposed to lie down for several hours before standing up. However, he got up before the pain eased and went back home overnight, because he did not want to miss a single class.

When he arrived at Liupanshui, he waited for the dawn break at the railway station before taking a homebound bus.

"I can't remember how many times I waited for the dawn at the railway station," Luyao said, bursting into tears.

Luyao had to leave school for two years due to the leukaemia. But he never quit learning. During that time, he borrowed books to go over the lessons he had learned before he fell ill, along with the new courses of fifth grade on his own. After his condition improved, the boy asked his grandparents to send him back to school.

"He looked very down and lonely, but he scored surprisingly good grades," said Ms Peng Lu, Luyao's Chinese-language teacher.

Ms Peng said that the boy's grades have remained at the top of the class since he returned to school. Each time he came back from the hospital, the boy would hand in his homework on time, she said.

Ms Peng said she was taken by surprise when she first came to know that the boy was suffering from leukaemia. To make Luyao feel less lonely, she arranged for four classmates to study with him and take care of him.

According to Luyao's doctor, his treatment has entered its later stage, and he can recover without having a bone marrow transplant. The treatment is expected to take another two years.