Canadian school gives wings to amputee Chinese girl

By Xu Ming Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-25 5:03:02

Huang Meihua practices yoga at home on December 16. Photo: CFP

Seven years ago, when Huang Meihua had her legs amputated after being severely injured in the Wenchuan earthquake, she never expected that one day she would have the chance to learn how to fly.

A high school senior at Guangya School, an international school in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, 18-year-old Huang has just been admitted to the Imperial Canadian Flying School (ICFS) in Vancouver for a three-week flying course. Now, having recovered from the news, Huang said "the chance came a bit suddenly." But as she's been undergoing continuous physical training for seven years, she is confident that she can handle the upcoming course.

"I heard that you might need legs to control the direction of the plane, but that is not an insurmountable difficulty. They must have had a good reason to choose me," Huang said.

New journey

Huang will go to Canada next February, and it will be the first time she leaves China. She lost both her legs after the school building she was studying in collapsed in the Wenchuan earthquake of 2008. After the earthquake, before she was transferred to a proper hospital, she spent six days lying in bed. At that time, her condition was uncertain but she waited for help with an unexpected calmness.

"I borrowed many books and just read, waiting for what fate would bring," she said.

An outstanding student even before the accident, she was later accepted by Guangya School. Huang has excelled in her studies and stands out among her classmates in various fields.

"She is excellent and deserves the opportunity," said Huang's teacher Toni Yip. According to Yip, the ICFS is in a cooperative relationship with Guangya School, and its delegation came to the school on December 15 to enroll students. It admitted Huang on the spot based on the school's recommendation, offering a free training course as well as accommodation. 

Huang said she has already recovered from the surprise, but when she talks about it, her excitement is obvious. "After my legs were amputated, I dreamt of having wings. But I never thought that one day I could really fly a plane!" she said.

Huang says learning to fly is like learning to drive, a skill she wants to master. She was rescued by a helicopter in 2008, so she has special feelings about flying, and hopes the skill will enable her to participate in air rescue as a volunteer someday.

As Yip explained, the three weeks of training will include basic theory and knowledge of flying and several hours of actual flying. After that, an evaluation will be made of her learning and physical condition to decide the next step. If Huang wants to a pilot's license, she will need to take dozens of classes in both flying practice and theory.

Thinking big

Huang explained to the Global Times that the training at the ICFS is just a short-term course. As a senior at high school, her main task now is to apply to universities abroad.

Since the school Huang studies at is an international school, its senior students like Huang will not sit the gaokao (national college entrance examination) at graduation but will apply to overseas schools instead.

"Now I'm applying to colleges mainly in the US and Canada, hoping I can be admitted, and it would be best if there is a full scholarship," Huang said, adding that currently it would be impossible for her family to financially support her studying in a Western country.

To many, it is already amazing that an amputee girl is determined to complete high school. Huang revealed that some people around her find it difficult to understand that she is even applying to study abroad.

"One reason is that I don't have legs, and another is I have no money," she said, "But it is my dream, after all, and I have to try."

As she understands, there are better facilities for handicapped people outside the country where she can learn to live independently.

Most importantly, Huang wants to study medicine in a developed country where medicinal science is relatively advanced. It has long been her dream to become a doctor.

"I'm grateful to the doctors and nurses who took good care of me when I was in the hospital. I hope to be a doctor who can not only save lives but also comfort patients."

Tough mindset

In Yip's eyes, as well as excelling in her studies, Huang is a confident and optimistic girl who actively participates in all kinds of activities. Last week, for the school's Christmas party, besides writing scripts for the show, Huang danced with her classmates on stage in a wheelchair, contributing as much as she could. "You just can't see any difference between her and her other classmates," Yip said.

Huang was only 11 when she lost her legs in 2008. She woke up to find her hands tied to the bed. "Later they told me it was in case I could not accept the fact and had an irrational reaction. But I was never very emotional about it," she said.

Describing herself as tough, Huang explained that even though she realized her physical disability would affect her life, she never thought of herself as being inferior to anyone.

This toughness has guided her through her years of study at Guangya School, from a country girl who had never even heard English to an outstanding student in a class that uses English as its main teaching medium.

She said she felt pain only when she doubted the meaning of her existence. "The last time I felt it was when I was in the hospital, and someone told my mom that she would have to take care of me all her life," Huang recollected, "I could not do anything to help her at that time. I felt useless."

But later, when talking to a boy who had to have his legs amputated after a car accident, she found her meaning in life. "I realized I could still encourage others with my experience."

She has given speeches in several cities like Beijing and Dalian, Liaoning Province to middle school students to encourage those facing difficulties in life. Last year, she also volunteered to teach in a rural school in North China's Hebei Province.

Huang told the Global Times that she hopes to change people's thinking about disabled people in society through her experience.

"Disabled people are usually regarded as weird and weak. I want to use my experience to change this mindset and encourage confidence among them. After all, how people look at disabled people eventually determines how they look at themselves."

"I'm happy I've already changed my classmates' minds," Huang added.

Newspaper headline: A dream of flying

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