BEIJING, 14 October (BelTA - China Daily). - Lu Shengmei, a delegate to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which is scheduled to convene on Sunday, said she was looking forward to attending the meeting in Beijing, where the 78-year-old doctor was born but stayed only until her twenties.
In the more than five decades since, Lu was a doctor in Jiaxian county, Shaanxi province, until her retirement in 1999 as deputy dean of Jiaxian People's Hospital. However, even after retirement, she has provided more than 100,000 voluntary treatments to local patients.
Working in a remote county was not her first choice when she was a young medical student at what is now Capital Medical University.
"Most students who graduated from the university would be assigned to jobs in the capital, and that's why my classmates and I chose to apply for (that university) in the first place," Lu said, adding that becoming a doctor at Beijing Children's Hospital was her dream.
However, in 1968, the then 24-year-old Lu was unexpectedly sent to Jiaxian, which is in the junction of the Loess Plateau and Mu Us Desert in northern Shaanxi. The environment and living conditions at that time, not to mention the local medical resources, were challenging.
Jiaxian People's Hospital was then just two rows of cave dwellings, with only four doctors and two nurses, Lu said.
"In the 12 counties in the city of Yulin, I am the only college graduate who majored in pediatrics," she said.
Furthermore, while providing mobile medical services in rural areas, she needed to treat patients with all types of diseases.
Due to the poor transportation at that time, patients often missed the golden hour for treatment and doctors traveled across mountains on foot to provide checkups.
"Sometimes we could not do much to help when a critically ill patient was sent to the hospital after a long, hard trip," Lu said.
In 1983, Lu established the hospital's pediatrics department. As an increasing number of children were cured, the department developed a reputation in the area and even attracted patients from neighboring Shanxi province.
Lu said she was glad to witness the improvements in living conditions and medical services in recent decades.
"Residents are no longer worried about eating and drinking, as their basic needs for water, electricity and natural gas are fully met," Lu said, adding that great changes have taken place in the local health sector.
"Patients previously tended to endure their illness as much as they could, but now they may see a doctor for a slight ailment. That's because the medical expenses don't bother them anymore," she said.
Moreover, patients can get timely care, as they now have access to better roads and equipment as well as ambulances. Medical insurance also helps to protect patients with serious illnesses from a huge economic burden, and remote diagnosis and exchanges of medical experts with hospitals in big cities have improved the situation for local patients with intractable diseases.
Lu also had opportunities to study at top hospitals in Beijing and Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi, and was even offered positions at these hospitals. But she decided to return to Jiaxian and has settled in the county.
"I feel that people in the county need me," she said.
Patients call her whenever they need her advice. "Sometimes when I am cooking, a patient calls me for consultation or stops by to see me. The dinner can be late, but patients cannot wait to be treated," Lu said.
She said that children and young people in the county call her Granny Lu when they encounter her on the streets.
"It is a pity that I didn't realize my dream of becoming a doctor in a big hospital in Beijing, but I never regretted living and working here my whole life. I have found my value here, and these people love me," she said.
Lu recalled that when she first came to Jiaxian from Beijing, a man shared a pancake with her when they were waiting in line to buy a train ticket in Tongchuan, Shaanxi.
"I later realized that the pancake was basically all the food he had at that time."
They kept in touch over the years, and Lu often lent a hand to his four children. The man's wife sent Lu a jade bracelet as a gift during the final days of her life, when she was suffering from stomach cancer, to express the family's gratitude.
Lu said she was proud to know that some young patients later decided to become doctors because they were told by parents that a pediatrician had once saved their life.
"I had a sense of fulfillment, as these children still remembered me and they became so brilliant when they grew up."