recent news - 2013

First Steps for Mei Lei

One of the most beautiful and exciting milestones parents can witness is seeing their child take his or her first steps.  This past October, volunteers from Red Thread Charities got to feel that thrill thousands of miles from home, and 12 years after one particular child was born.

Mei Li (not her real name) is a sweet girl living in a Chinese orphanage. She has cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that is caused by disruption in brain development, usually before the child is born. Cerebral palsy can range from very mild, such as weakness in one or two limbs, to quite severe, such as the inability to control most muscles in all four limbs.  Often, the affected child has normal intelligence, as is the case with Mei Li.

Mei Li has lived in the orphanage since she was an infant, and had never walked. She has poor control of the muscles in her arms and legs, but a delightful, open personality. When she was first seen in October 2012 by a team from RTC, she was sitting in a child-sized plastic chair, and using her feet to push her chair around the room. Then 12 years old, she had never been to school because of her inability to walk  It was apparent that this darling girl had very, very little knowledge of the world outside of the few rooms she had spent most of her life in. Several team members had had to leave Mei Li’s room temporarily, overwhelmed with emotion at this child’s plight.

A Minnesota physical therapist who had traveled with RTC was convinced that Mei Li could walk if she had the use of a specialized walker called a gait trainer.  RTC turned to Rifton Equipment, a manufacturer of equipment for the disabled, to purchase a gait trainer for Mei Li that would serve her now and for many years to come.  Rifton gave us a substantial discount from the list price, and we raised the balance needed for the purchase from a handful of loyal donors.  The next hurdle: how to get the gait trainer, in its cumbersome box, to China quickly, safely and affordably? RTC asked Delta Airlines for help. Thanks to Delta, Mei Li’s gait trainer was flown to Shanghai in October 2013 free of charge, along with 6 other boxes containing reverse walkers and other adaptive equipment.

All of the equipment was given to two Chinese orphanages by a volunteer medical team from RTC. A few days later, Mei Li was fitted into the gait trainer by our physical therapist. Then the brakes were disengaged, Mei Li moved her legs and feet, and off she went!  It was an amazing experience for her and for her Chinese therapists. Not only did Mei Li walk for the first time, she showed the orphanage staff that disabled children are able, with the right help. That is a very powerful lesson, especially in a Chinese orphanage.




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Thank you to Delta Airlines for transporting several boxes of equipment and supplies to China and waiving all baggage fees, sen for the large gait trainer box!

Thank you to Rifton for giving us a 40% discount on the purchase of the gait trainer.