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Family tries to recover from tragedy

IT has been two months since the terrible night but 22-month-old Li Yuanmeng still screams whenever she hears her mother cutting up food on a chopping block.

The family has moved apartment, but memories of January 13 remain fresh in her mind. That night, the girl's nanny put her on a chopping block and repeatedly slashed her face with a kitchen knife. The nanny later told police the family had been critical of her job performance, and she lashed out at the girl in a burst of anger.

Her parents fought with the nanny to save the girl after hearing her screams and the mother was injured on the head and back.

The girl was in critical condition due to huge blood loss when she arrived at Shanghai No. 9 People's Hospital. She received 130 sutures to close five cuts on her cheeks and jaw. The longest cut was 14.5 centimeters.

"When she screams like that, I can't hold back my tears," says Liu Changming, the girl's mother, holding her baby in her arms. "Even now I can't believe my baby suffered so much. But the scars on her face are a constant reminder of that terrible night."

Shanghai Daily visited the girl and her parents at their new home in Fengxian District, yesterday. The family rented this apartment after the attack. "We don't want to set foot in the apartment where the tragedy happened," says Li Yonggao, the father.

The parents say Li suffered a great deal. There's a 5cm steel plate in her mouth to aid the healing of three scars on her jaw. However, the plate makes it impossible for her to eat. She now lives off milk and congee. The steel plate will be removed in six months. The mother, who received 10 stitches for a head wound, has fully recovered.

The parents are both 37-year-old Anhui Province natives. Li runs a construction company. They also have two sons, 15 and 6 years old.

"When she hears me cutting food in the kitchen, she cries and says, 'Mom, dad, help me - the nanny is beating me,'" says Liu.

"I can only sleep from about 4am," says the father. "I only sleep for about five hours as I have to get up and check on my wife and baby from time to time. Even slight noises will wake me up."

Despite barely being a toddler, the girl is aware of her changed appearance, say her parents.

"When she looks in a mirror she covers her face," says the mother. "She also hid her face from other people when we took her back to our hometown for Spring Festival."

"We are fed up with explaining her injuries, so we tell strangers her scars are from a fall," Liu says. "We also avoid talking about it with her brothers."

The family has decided to receive psychological counseling once the plate in the girl's mouth has been removed. They also plan to send the girl to South Korea for plastic surgery.

"We want to remove both her physical and mental scars, no matter what it costs," the father told Shanghai Daily.

He said surgery might cost 300,000 yuan (US$43,860).

The parents say they aren't seeking compensation from the 47-year-old nanny, Zhang Xuexia, but they want a court to punish her severely. "Police told us she has no mental disorder," the father says.

Zhang, also from Anhui Province, is in the custody of Nanhui police. Police are waiting for the little girl to undergo a forensic examination for her injuries before they charge Zhang.

The parents told Shanghai Daily Zhang's husband called to express his remorse.

Zhang has a son and a daughter. Both of them are university students.


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