Recent Speech by Dr. Zhang Xu
Introduction To Dr. Zhang Xu
Inspired by a book Dr. Zhang
translated his "inspirational
treasure" into Chinese sharing with the disabled the strength to
learn how to - "have faith and never give up" - to go forth with a
Zhang Xu, a doctor from Liaoninxg
Province who was paralyzed in an accident while working in Yemen, once on the
brink of suicide, was moved by a protagonist in "JONI" (a thirty
year old autobiographical account of a seventeen year old girl) given to him
by a Japanese friend.
Dr. Zhangxu translated this book
into Chinese with the nightly assistance of his beloved and dedicated mother.
The book was
and thousands of disabled Chinese
patients have benefited from his magnificent and heartfelt
Quoted from the web site Dr.
Cord Injury Assistance Fund.
This is a speech given in June in Hong Kong by Dr. Zhang
Xu to an audience of about 600 people.
ICDRI Page on Dr. Zhang
Dear friends, ladies and gentlemen
It's my honor to attend this conference. Here I'd like to give
my thanks to Mr. Qiu Hong-buo, the chairman of Hong Kong Social Service
Development Research Center ,for his kind invitation, and giving me the precious
chance to meet you all. I hope, with my own experience, to tell you how
I,a severely disabled person, to benefit form nowadays rapidly developed
I injured my neck and became quadriplegic in a diving accident
in May of 1997 when I worked abroad. After first aid I was sent back to Beijing
unconsciously and hospitalized in China Rehabilitation Research Center (CRRC).
With a period of active treatment my life was safe, but at the same time another
crisis was approaching me.
I had been working as an orthopedic surgeon for more ten
years. In my clinical practice I had treated many patients with neck injury.
That means, I definitely knew the severity of the injury. At present the injury
is incurable! I know that the sort of patients will have to paralyzed in
bed for all life. I still remember that one time when I saw one of my
patients, a quadriplegia, living in a poor living situation, I even said in my
heart: If someday I fall into the same situation I surely will manage to end my
Yet, my prophesy becomes true. Today I became a quad. At
that time, I thought I would have to lie in bed for all of my rest life,
dependent on my family's care to survive. I am thoroughly handicapped! I
am useless! It's easy for anybody to imagine what I was thinking then.
After so many years' education and struggle I just got my position in the
sociality and was about to fulfill my dream as an orthopedic specialist, but
suddenly, I became a thoroughly disabled man. I was totally desperate then and
even thinking of committing suicide. Just in that period of time, in the therapy
room of CRRC, I met Ms. Yatani, a Japanese therapy specialist who was in a
teaching mission there. She encouraged me and gave me a copy of JONI in English
version before she left for Japan.
The book is the autobiography of Ms. Joni Earckson. She
injured her neck and became quad also in a diving accident in 1967. But
with her unremitting efforts and practice she finally became an eminent artist,
author and speechmaker in the U.S. From her story I got the enlightenment and
saw my hope. I found I might not become "thorough disability",
with my own effort. I probably should find my position the sociality and my
value for my existence. But I just didn't know where my destination is.
My doctor, Dr. Guanhua, the professor of CRRC, saw me
reading the book in my ward bed. He suggested me to translate it into
Chinese in order to benefit more disabled people in China. I agreed and since
then, every night, in my bed, with mom's help, I began the translating
work. Only in one and half month my first manuscript was finished.
At that moment we realized that we need contact Joni for the copyright
authorization. Following the address on the book cover I sent her several
letters continuously. Four months past, no any response. So
Dr. Guan had to introduce me to Dr. Aldis, who was working in American
Embassy, hoping he can help to find Joni. Mrs. and Dr. Aldis were moved by
my story and immediately agreed to give help. Only in one week he found and
contacted Joni by internet.This is the first I sense the mystery of modern
Since then Dr. Aldis began to think how to give me further
help. At last, he decided to buy me an advanced computer. Later, he
told me that the decision was made only after a long time consideration.
Before that he had consulted some of his friends and all of them agreed that,
for a severely disabled person like me, only High-tech instrument, modern
information technology could give me the most effective help and fully make use
of my potential.
Thinking that I cannot use my hands, he contacted IBM China
Company to install their Viavoice software for me. IBM Company was moved by Dr.
Aldis' alms deed and donated a set of voice-recognition software to me and sent
an engineer to help install, adjust and gave me training lectures. Another
American friend, Mr. Al LeBlanc, who is working in Singapore, also knew my story
and donated me a set of Headmaster device, which can help me control my computer
by the movement of my head and my breath.
With the help of them, I soon mastered how to run my computer
basically, how to explore online, how to receive and send e-mails, etc.
Now, in my ward room I can easily contact friends from throughout the world by
e-mail. Through ICQ and Net Meeting I can chat with friends from any place in
the world. I write Chinese letters with Chinese Viavoice software, also I can
write English e-mails with the help of my Headmaster.
When chatting with friends online, if I don't tell them, they
could never think that I am a quad. We communicate totally in a natural and
equal manner, I thoroughly get rid of the limitation of my wheelchair.
Each time I think of this I would feel cozy and happy. When I talk with Dr.
Aldis on Netmeeting I often forget the space and distance between us.
Last year I took part of the translation work of an important
textbook "Family Medicine", in which I was in charge of the orthopedic
part. This time, the work is much easier than that when I did for JONI. Last
time mom had to take down every word I dictated. The most important thing is
that she doesn't know to look up in a dictionary. Now I have this computer and
with the e-dictionary installed in it I can easily find new words, then read my
translation to Chinese Viavoice.
Recently, with the help of several friends in Beijing
University we just began a web site for
medical knowledge. Their work is to establish and maintain the
site, while I fully use my knowledge, with quite simple words, to introduce
common orthopedic diseases, injuries and
their treatment and prevention to ordinary people. I also
answer their questions online
and this experience makes me feel to come back to the past.
With this advanced computer, with today's rapidly developed
internet technology, no longer am I a "prisoner" jailed in my
wheelchair. My world is not only my bed, my room, rather, it is just the whole
wider world. People I can reach are not only my family, but the friends
throughout the world. Because of this my life became full and colourful.What I
can do now is not only lying in bed or sitting chair, waiting for other's help,
I can take the advantage of highly developed information technology, with my
healthy brain, to do a lot lot of good things for other people and the
Now again I find the meaning of my existence, and regain my
dignity. If three years ago I thought that I was thoroughly useless, yet
today I can proudly tell you: Yes, I am still useful! The only difference is
that I cannot move as freely as all of you; My head is still healthy, With the
help of the information technology I can do many things, some of them even
"normal" people are not able to do. Like many people, I can still
serve people and the society with the knowledge I own.
Highly developed information technology brings me my hope and
makes my hope come true, makes me return to the sociality, even go to the world;
it makes me possible to do something for other people, to see the value of my
life. I am really lucky that I live in the age of Information. I could not
imagine how my life would be like without it. It makes my life profound and
Here, special thanks to Dr. Aldis, Dr. Guanhua of CRRC, Mr. Al
LeBlanc, Mr. Zhaofeng of IBM and my parents; thanks to all friends who love and
care me. It is their loves and efforts that make my wish of mastering and using
new age information technology become reality. I hope by internet to give my
love and thanks to everyone in the world, to their hearts.