China quake amputees need rehabilitation, funds

Mon Feb 9, 2009 5:22am EST
 
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By Tan Ee Lyn

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Basketball enthusiast Gong Guilin had both his legs amputated after rescuers freed him from the debris of his school which collapsed in China's devastating earthquake last year, but he considers himself lucky.

More than 7,000 survivors have had one or more limbs amputated after the May 12 quake, but many were treated at Chinese hospitals which officials say have prosthetic know-how and rehabilitation services that lag far behind the best that is available internationally.

Gong, however, was fitted with advanced protheses in Sichuan's provincial capital of Chengdu that were paid for by Hong Kong taxpayers and took his first steps in August.

He is now in Hong Kong with two other amputees, medical experts and officials to raise public awareness, and funds, about the lack of services for amputees.

"I was trapped with three dead classmates resting on my body. I'm very lucky to be alive and I really hope to play basketball again," the 20-year-old told a media gathering.

The quake killed more than 80,000 people, flattening wide swathes of southwest China and leaving millions homeless.

Li Yuanfeng, president of the Sichuan Provincial People's Hospital, told Reuters that rehabilitation technology in Hong Kong was much more advanced than in mainland China.

"More than 100,000 people were wounded and are in need of rehabilitation," he said.   Continued...