Boy finds open arms in trying times
Editor's note: This series tells the stories of selfless individuals, from medical workers to volunteers, who are bravely fighting the virus outbreak with extraordinary dedication.
When a 7-year-old boy from Hubei province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, had nowhere to go after recovering from viral pneumonia, Gao Ying, who works at a local subdistrict community office in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, offered him a temporary home and took on the role of "mother" for a week.
Gao, a staff member at the office of Dinglan subdistrict in Hangzhou, agreed without hesitation when asked if she could look after Xiong Xiong (not his real name), who was discharged from the hospital on Feb 4.
Xiong's father worked in Hangzhou and lived in an apartment in a residential community of Dinglan. On Jan 18, the boy and his mother headed to Hangzhou from their hometown in Hubei via the provincial capital, Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus broke out in December, for a Chinese New Year family reunion.
The day after their arrival in Hangzhou, Xiong's mother was confirmed to have been infected with the novel coronavirus. On Jan 25, his father was also diagnosed with the virus, and the boy himself showed symptoms of fever. Six days later, Xiong also was confirmed to be infected.
The boy recovered after being treated at a hospital. On the afternoon of Feb 3, his temperature stabilized and a CT scan of his lungs showed no abnormality. Two consecutive reagent tests conducted by the hospital cleared the boy's condition and he was allowed to leave the hospital.
But Xiong's parents were still hospitalized at that time, which meant the child had nowhere to go, since no one in the family could take care of him.
Dinglan subdistrict officials discussed ways to help the boy and realized they had to look for a temporary guardian for him.
His hosts had to be "a family with children … and members of the family should be old hands in looking after children of his age", said Zhou Hongxing, secretary of Dinglan's Party working committee.
Wang Xiongbin, vice-director of the subdistrict office, soon contacted Gao, who herself has a 10-year-old boy. "Is it possible for Xiong to stay at your home for a week?" Wang asked.
Gao agreed immediately. "I am busy with the prevention and control work of the novel coronavirus spread during this period, so my son is not at home with me. There's a room that can be vacated for Xiong, and my mother can help buy some food."
Wang advised the young mother to pay close attention to Xiong's physical and mental condition, and contact his parents from time to time over the following seven days, in addition to taking care of his daily needs.
Wang also told her it was a great responsibility and that if anything unusual occurred, she should report it to the subdistrict office at once.
Gao received Xiong at the local hospital on Feb 4. The woman and her colleagues had prepared new clothes, books, toys and snacks for the boy, hoping to reassure him about his new environment.
Gao had also asked Xiong's mother about the boy's living habits and kept them in mind.
She said she would be able to take care of the child well and was confident about getting along with him.
Gao stayed with Xiong at home that day, showing him around the apartment and making sure that he settled in comfortably. Xiong quickly got used to his new home.
The boy told his mother in a video chat that "aunt" and the doctors have been very nice to him. The boy said he would stay at his temporary home and looked forward to being reunited with his parents once they were discharged from the hospital.
Qin Jirong contributed to this story.