Parents work round the clock to keep son alive with ventilator

Updated: 2013-01-30 07:24

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai (China Daily)

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 Parents work round the clock to keep son alive with ventilator

Fu Xuepeng with the self-made ventilator, as his mother Wang Lanqin looks on. Fu's parents have kept their son alive for more than five years using the ventilator. Pan Kanjun / for China Daily

Every time Fu Minzu presses down on the black, lightweight, PVC resuscitator bag, the 67-year-old farmer hopes the life of his son, who is connected to the bag with a plastic tube, will be prolonged for another few minutes.

For seven years, ever since the then 23-year-old mechanic was paralyzed in a car accident, he has been kept alive by a makeshift ventilator operated by hand. Fu's son is paralyzed from the neck down.

"(We) never think of giving up, not for one second. No parents would give up on their child as long as there is a slight chance of living," said Fu, a native of Taizhou, Zhejiang province, in a telephone interview with China Daily.

Three minutes of forgetfulness, or stopping the constant compression of the bag by hand, means stopping his son's breathing.

In spring 2006, Fu Xuepeng, the son, was riding his motorcycle home from work when he was hit by a car, leaving his respiratory center and motor neurons seriously damaged. He is the only son and the family's bread-winner as his two sisters have married and moved away from the village, and his parents have both retired.

He spent one year moving between major hospitals in the country meeting with expert consultants but it proved in vain. To have Fu Xuepeng remain in a hospital was too much of a financial burden for the family, so his parents decided to take their son home and ventilate him on their own using an Ambu bag, a hand-held device that is generally used in ambulances for medical emergencies.

"We have no money, no power, only time and patience," said Fu, who for two years took turns with his wife, 24-hours a day, seven days a week, compressing their son's bag, with neighbors and visiting relatives occasionally "taking turns".

It was not until a relative saw a TV program demonstrating a DIY ventilator that the days of non-stop hand compression came to an end.

With 200 yuan ($32) and the help of "someone knowledgeable in the village", the couple made a medical ventilator with a motor, a speed controller, a pushing bar and an air bag.

But to minimize the electricity bill, which adds up to 5 to 6 yuan a day if the machine is left running all day, the couple compresses the bag by hand during the day and turns on the machine only at night.

"Many people, including government officials, have sent their care and offered help since a newspaper published our story. Doctors from provincial hospitals have come and held consultations, but with no good news," said Fu.

A ventilator sales company has also promised to give a modern machine to the family for free.

The son, who with great effort can speak for a short time, told the Hangzhou-based Qianjiang Evening News that he wanted an operation even if there was only 1 percent chance of success.

Li Huaqing contributed to this story.

(China Daily 01/30/2013 page3)