Pandemic-Proof Care for Children

Children living in orphanages with special needs, like Ping, deserve to be healthy. In 2020, Ping urgently needed surgery. But due to COVID-19, he couldn’t travel from his orphanage to receive care in Beijing. That’s when Holt China staff, generous donors and local doctors stepped up to help — working remotely to ensure he received the medical care he needed!

Three-year-old Ping lives in an orphanage in China and is a favorite among his caregivers and friends. He loves to give big hugs and greetings to everyone he meets. He is an amazing little boy.

Like many kids living in orphanages in China, Ping also has special needs. He was born with deformities in both of his wrists and hands. Two of his fingers were misplaced and he couldn’t move them, and his wrists bent all the way towards his thumbs.

Ping and other children living in orphanages often don't get the care they need
Ping in October, when he first arrived at Peace House.

Despite his limitations, he adapted and did his best.

“Even though he has special needs on his hands,” his orphanage caregivers share, “he tried his best to grab and eat fruits and dumplings.”

But Ping deserved to have the best care, and best future, possible. And doctors recommended that he receive surgery to help correct his hands and wrists.

The government provides the medical care needed for children living in orphanages. But the medical procedure itself is only one piece of what a child needs to heal.

“In China, the system is different,” says Jian Chen, Holt’s vice president of China programs. “If you send kids to the hospital for surgery, you’re always required to have somebody stay there full time to care for them.”

For a child in an orphanage, this is problematic.

“In China, the system is different. If you send kids to the hospital for surgery, you’re always required to have somebody stay there full time to care for them.”

Jian Chen, Holt’s vice president of China programs

Most orphanages are short on staff to begin with, and simply cannot spare a staff member to stay in the hospital with just one child. So for many children, the critical care they need ends up getting postponed or delayed — then postponed or delayed again. Or, orphanages feel forced to settle for less-than-expert care in a local hospital, as opposed to the expert medical care found in a bigger city.

Then, there’s the issue of post-operative care.

“Normally,” says Jian, “they only keep kids for a day or two and then [send them] back to the orphanage. But when a child has surgery, they need better attention and therapy to recover. And [in an orphanage], it is hard to protect them from infection.”

Almost all children in orphanages, in China and around the world, have special needs — many of whom require critical medical care and surgeries. Some children are like Ping and have deformities or limb differences. Others have Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. And others are considered to have “special needs” because they are older in age or have experienced complex trauma. Special needs require special resources and care — special resources and care that simply aren’t available for children living in orphanages.

But every child deserves to be healthy. To have the opportunity to develop and grow to their full potential. That’s why caring for children growing up in orphanages — especially children with special needs — is such an integral part of what Holt donors do around the world.

And that’s why Peace House is so important.

orphanage medical care
Ping, before his first surgery.

Ping’s First Surgery

In October 2019, Ping moved from his orphanage to Peace House. Funded entirely by the generosity of Holt’s donors, Peace House cares for approximately 35 children a year. At the foster home, children receive round-the-clock care from a specially trained team of caregivers who help the children grow strong enough for surgery and to make a full recovery afterwards.

“This is the place where children receive the best care,” a Peace House caregiver said, explaining the purpose of the facility. “We take children who no one thinks have any value, children who are sick or suffering, and nurse them back to health.”

While staying at Peace House, Ping had the chance to be assessed by specialists in Beijing. They determined that he would need several surgeries to correct his wrists and hands, but he would have to become stronger in order to receive the surgery.

So for one month, Ping lived at Peace House where he received nutritious meals and attentive round-the-clock care. And at the end of November, he was finally strong enough. He had his first surgery, and it was a great success!

To help Ping’s wrists grow correctly, the doctors placed external fixators. For months after the procedure, they would have to be cleaned and adjusted daily to gradually straighten out his bones.

And it’s at this time, after surgery, when Peace House becomes even more critically important for children.

“Sometimes, it’s heartbreaking. A child may receive a surgery, then the child will go back to their orphanage and they come back in six months for the second surgery and they’ve gotten worse.”

Sandy, the director of Peace House

This ongoing care he needed would be intensive. Doctors said Ping would need attentive and careful care. But in an orphanage with so many other children, this would be hard to find.

Most orphanages just don’t have the medical resources, caregivers or capacity to give the attentive post-operative care that a recovering child needs.

“Sometimes, it’s heartbreaking,” said Sandy, the director of Peace House. “A child may receive a surgery, then the child will go back to their orphanage and they come back in six months for the second surgery and they’ve gotten worse.”

Ping, after his first surgery.

Fortunately, Ping had the opportunity to go back to Peace House after his procedure. He got the opportunity to heal.

Healing Care at Peace House

When Ping returned to Peace House after his first surgery, the additional care and attention made all the difference for his recovery.

“Ping was active and in an age of exploration,” his caregiver said about the time he was there with them. Keeping Ping still was no easy task!

He was assigned his very own caregiver so that he would have one-on-one care. Every day that he was there, Ping’s caregiver followed him closely, ensuring other children wouldn’t touch his arms, and that he wouldn’t fall down and injure himself.

Both his primary caregiver and the other caregivers told him stories, watched cartoons with him, played games and sang songs to keep him happy, learning and healthy.

Every day Ping’s caregiver adjusted his external fixators and cleaned his bandages. And every day, Ping was healing and growing stronger.

After his initial recovery at Peace House, Ping returned to his orphanage. This timing coincided with a change to the Peace House facility as well. In order to adhere to new childcare regulations in China, Peace House moved from an apartment in a 31-story building in the city to on site at one of Holt’s partner orphanages in Beijing. During this transition, many of the children living in orphanages had to return for the remainder of their recoveries — including Ping.

Ping’s Peace House caregivers worried for his health, but there was no other choice.

Care Beyond Peace House

But even once he was back at his orphanage, Holt caregivers continued to look after Ping — calling and video-chatting with his orphanage to ensure he received the care he needed. And several months later, with prompting by Holt, the orphanage staff took Ping for a checkup at the local hospital. They received great news! Ping’s arms were adjusted to normal, and he no longer needed the external fixators!

But the doctors at the local hospital weren’t experts in his condition. They weren’t the doctors in Beijing who had performed his initial operation. And unfortunately, they couldn’t take Ping back to those doctors for one very unexpected and serious reason — the coronavirus pandemic.

In January, the spread of a novel coronavirus was just being realized in China — the epicenter of the outbreak. Quarantine began, travel within China shut down and hospitals limited their capacity. There was no way that they could take Ping to Beijing to have his external fixators removed.

“Because of the virus, many children have had to wait for a surgery,” Jian says. “Unless it’s an emergency.”

Holt China — with support and resources from Holt donors — reached out to Ping’s orphanage, his doctors in Beijing and his doctors at the local hospital. And they coordinated something amazing.

Ping’s operation was considered an emergency. He had to have his external fixators removed. But with lockdowns and travel restrictions and the dangers of exposing Ping and his caregivers to the virus, how would his surgery be possible?

While nearly the whole world struggled to a stop, the work of caring for children can never be stopped. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented solutions. And that’s exactly what happened for Ping.

Care Through the Pandemic

Holt China — with support and resources from Holt donors — reached out to Ping’s orphanage, his doctors in Beijing, and his doctors at the local hospital. And they coordinated something amazing.

On April 13, 2020, doctors in Beijing guided doctors at the local hospital via live video stream to perform Ping’s operation.

And again, it was a success.

They removed his external fixators, and then put each of Ping’s wrists in casts to help the final healing.

All of this, for one very special, very deserving little boy in China.

Ping will need ongoing medical checkups and treatment, but he has likely already made it through the most difficult steps of his treatment and recovery. And now that he has received the care he needs, it is even more likely that he will be able to join a permanent, loving family through adoption.

Because of the care and generosity of Holt donors who support Peace House and other services for children living in orphanages with special needs, vulnerable children — like Ping — can overcome the toughest of odds. Even when those odds include a global pandemic.

Despite the pandemic, Ping got the best care possible by the best doctors and the best caregivers — pandemic-proof care. Care made possible by doctors across China, devoted caregivers and generous Holt donors. All for one very special, very deserving boy whose future is now even brighter.

Ping, after his surgery in April.

And because of Holt donor’s amazing gifts to the Molly Holt Fund, this brighter future is possible for even more children.

“It is difficult for everybody, but our staff and the orphanage staff do whatever they can to serve the children as much as they can,” says Jian. “I hope people understand that we need support.”

As of 2020, 11 children are living at the new Peace House, receiving critical pre- and post-operative care. But as orphanage lockdowns are lifted, Jian hopes that Peace House will be able to reach its full capacity of 16 children at a time.

“We’ve already seen a great result after these children entered Peace House,” Jian says.

And with the incredible generosity of Holt donors, more and more children living in orphanages will get the same chance — the chance to heal and the chance to overcome seemingly unsurmountable odds.

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