"If possible, I want to skip the two days of parting," says Xu Xiaochan. Xu expressed her feelings about ending her work in the village on her WeChat, as she muttered, her voice faltering.
Zhang Jianming and Xu are doctors at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University and the Second Affiliated Hospital of Anhui University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In 2019, the couple signed up for the "Health Alleviation of Poverty, Hundred Doctors in Villages" campaign in Anhui province, and brought their 7-year-old daughter to Huangjian township, Xiuning county, Huangshan city. In two years, they undertook medical care and public health services for about 1,400 permanent residents in two remote mountain villages. They established personal health files for the villagers, conducted chronic disease screening and used what they learned to protect the villagers. The couple also cultivated follow-up successors for the village clinic. "I have made my home here, and I belong here. Even if I am not by their side, as long as they need me, I will always be there," Xu says.
Located in the deep mountains at the junction of Xiuning county, Anhui province, and Chun'an county, Zhejiang province, Huangjian township is sparsely populated with inconvenient transportation access. Before the arrival of the two doctors, villagers in the most remote Qingxi village had to walk 6 kilometers to the Huangjian township Health Center to see a doctor. Timely emergency treatment is hardly a guarantee if someone has a sudden illness or accident. The couple's presence filled the gap especially in Qingxi and Xujia villages.
"When I first came to the village, I'd never thought there would be a huge psychological gap," says Xu. "I thought my task would be merely treating a cold or cough, only to discover it was not as simple as imagined."
Language is the biggest obstacle. At the beginning, village officials were asked to be interpreters for the villagers' medical treatment. During their regular visits, the couple discovered that there were still many hidden health hazards, and the villagers lack basic health awareness or any formal health education, a problem needed to be solved urgently.
In the past two years, they have established standardized clinics in the villages, regularly visited their homes to promote health knowledge. It only took them half a year to finish screening the villagers for chronic diseases.
"Villagers are used to heavy oil and salt in their eating habits all year round. Many people suffer from high blood pressure. There are quite a few people with high blood pressure between 230-240, and complications caused by high blood pressure had a great impact on other health issues, including early rectal cancer, spinal spondylosis, myasthenia gravis, Parkinson's syndrome, valvular heart disease and thrombocytopenia found in 10 villagers.
"I was shocked when I saw the death rate in the villages. If the villagers can receive formal health education in time, the death rate can be greatly reduced," says Xu. Villagers rarely take medicine. Many of them stopped taking medicine halfway through, or didn't buy medicine after taking the first dose.
"Before I came here, only 30 percent of patients with high blood pressure can stick to medicine treatment. Later, all villagers with third-level hypertension have started to take medicine regularly," Xu says.
During her stay in the village, Xu was rated as an advanced individual in poverty alleviation in Anhui. The couple were elected together as "Anhui Good People", and their family was rated as the "Most Beautiful Family in Anhui Province". Their daughter Zhang Qingyu has made many good friends there. The green mountains and waters have become her second classroom for her happy growth.
Be it poverty alleviation, flood control, epidemic prevention and control, and vaccination, the couple participated in and witnessed every major event in the village, and forged a deep friendship with the villagers. July 10 was the day when Xu and Zhang finished their work in the village. The local villagers came to see them off, and the couple were most reluctant to leave.