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November 21, 2011

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Joy and then despair for boys' family

TWO months ago, 36-year-old Xu Xuebing was overjoyed at the birth of his second son.

In addition to his delight at the addition to the family, Xu was hoping blood stem cells from the umbilical cord could help save the baby's eight-year-old brother, who suffers from leukemia.

But Xu's joy was short-lived when his younger son was discovered to have congenital heart disease.

Now he is seeking help from the public to save his ill children, Xu Ping'an and Xu Pingkang.

The brothers' lives are in the balance as the family cannot afford the huge medical bills they face. Over the past four years, they have spent all their savings and borrowed to treat the elder boy, Ping'an.

Xu said he changed his first son's name to Ping'an - which means "safe and sound" in Chinese - hoping it would bring good luck to the child, and prayed for him after the boy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in February 2007.

Ping'an has spent most of his childhood at home or at hospital for blood tests, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and transfusions.

"He's lived every day with misery," said Xu, who used to be a Chinese teacher in a primary school in Shangrao City, in eastern China's Jiangxi Province.

The family moved to Shanghai in 2007 to get better treatment for their son. Since then they have spent more than 300,000 yuan (US$47,255) on medical bills and are in debt to friends and relatives.

Last year, Xu and his wife, Zhang Yuehong, decided to have a second child, after being told by doctors that a transplant of their second child's umbilical cord blood stem cells could save Ping'an.

In September, Zhang, 33, gave birth to a boy. However, the baby was diagnosed with arrhythmia and congenital heart disease, which requires urgent surgery.

The family live in a 10-square-meter apartment on Jiangpu Road, Yangpu District. Ping'an should be at school but, due to his illness, cannot attend and has no playmates.

The eight-year-old said he wanted to be cured and hoped his younger brother would also get well.

Xu said Ping'an is still waiting for a bone marrow match result and the hospital has sent several notices urging the family to arrange for their younger son to have an operation.

"We cannot afford a penny," said the desperate father. "And in any case, who should we save first?"

The family now lives on Xu's salary, about 1,000 yuan a month, which is still paid by the school he worked at in his hometown in Shangrao City.

Xu said he received 30,000 yuan from a fund under the Red Cross last year, but it was far from enough.

The government of his hometown has also provided 10,000 yuan to help the family.

The couple were told that further treatment for Ping'an will cost 200,000 yuan, and they don't know how much the surgery and treatment for Pingkang will be.

"At night I often ask myself why God treats us so unfairly," Xu said last night, looking at his wife holding Pingkang in her arms, as Ping'an slept nearby.

Readers wishing to help the family can contact Shanghai Daily.


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