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Premier's Letter Raises Hopes of Quake Girl

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has given a 12-year-old girl in the southwest China quake zone a much-needed morale boost with a personal letter wishing her a speedy recovery from surgery.

Chen Feng underwent her second skin transplant on her face just before Wen's letter arrived unexpectedly in response to a letter she wrote him earlier.

"Little friend Chen Feng," wrote the premier, "I received your letter on July 7. I'm as sad as you are for your loss during the earthquake, but you are not alone. So many people care about you, and they are all your family.

"You must be brave and strong, carrying on life like a beautiful wild goose soaring in the sky. I hope your surgery is successful and you recover soon," said the 65-year-old Wen.

Chen, who lives in Sanjiang village in southwest China's Wenchuan County, one of the areas hardest hit by the devastating May 12 quake, was disfigured six years ago when a bottle of diesel oil ignited near her home. Emergency surgery in Chengdu failed to prevent serious scarring.

Her father later died of illness and her mother left her to remarry. The earthquake killed her grandfather, leaving her with only her grandmother.

Days after the quake, medical and rescue teams arrived at the village where more than 90 percent residents are Tibetan. With the support of the local government and school, Chen was sent to the General Hospital of Beijing Military Area for surgery.

"I couldn't believe that Grandpa Wen would actually write back," said Chen, an ethnic Tibetan.

She wrote to Wen before her second transplant: "Grandpa Wen, The big earthquake destroyed my home. My family who loved me so much are gone forever. Now I'm like a lonely bird in the mountain. When I felt so helpless, medical teams from Beijing climbed over mountains and came all the way to our Sanjiang village. They gave us treatment and brought us televisions....

"On the television, I saw you risk your life coming here and see over the situation, so kind and gentle. When you held those kids close and said 'let's live on and live well', you became the grandpa of tens of millions of children in Sichuan...

"I live on, and I will study hard and help make our country strong when I grow up.

"Grandpa Wen, I'm going to receive another surgery soon, and I'm still scared. I know you are busy, but could you take some time to write me back. Could you give me strength and cheer me up a bit?"

On July 12, one day after the surgery, Wen wrote the letter and sent it straight to Chen's sickbed.

When Chen recalled the moment she saw the letter, she said, "I'm blessed."

Doctors said the surgery went well, but she could face another operation depending on how well she recovers over the next six months.

On August 15, Chen returned to her home accompanied by a medical worker from the hospital. Wen wrote again: "Thank you, all medical staff at the General Hospital of Beijing Military Area."

Wang Liang, principal of the Sanjiang Central Elementary School, where Chen studies, said, "It is not just a letter. It's a big boost for all the kids in the quake zone, and we appreciate it very much."

The school resumed classes on August 16, and Chen Feng entered grade five.

"I keep grandpa Wen's letter inside my schoolbag," she said.

(Xinhua News Agency August 27, 2008)