Chen Xiaotian was just five-years-old when he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. A few months later, his mother Zhou Lu contracted uremia, a chronic kidney disease.
At first doctors thought Chen may recover, but his condition eventually worsened. His tumor grew and pushed against his optic nerve causing him to go blind, and not long after he became paralyzed.
Zhou’s condition also worsened and required her to receive dialysis treatments. Both mother and child lived and were treated the same hospital.
As Chen’s condition progressed his grandmother suggested to Zhou that he may be a good match for a kidney. Doctors agreed, but Zhou adamantly refused and stayed by her son’s bedside hoping for a miracle.
Chen had overhead the doctors discussing the transplant option with Zhou and brought it up to his mother. He pleaded with her to allow him to die so that she could have his kidney. Still against the thought of her dying son helping to spare her own life, she resisted. However, Chen was persistent and eventually convinced his mother to receive his kidney once he had passed away.
On April 2, 2014, Chen lost his battle with cancer.
Doctors who performed the organ removal paused before the procedure to bow their heads and honor selfless seven-year-old who left this earth much too soon.
A few hours later, Zhou received Chen’s kidney. His right kidney and liver were donated to two additional recipients in their twenties.
I sometimes think about the unimaginable pain Zhou must had been experiencing in those moments. Hours after her child died she was rushed into a major surgery, only to receive her child’s organ, so that her own life would be spared. The recovery from the operation in the midst of such grief must have been unbearable. I imagine that the thought of knowing part of Chen would always be with her through that connection would be equally comforting and incredibly difficult to think about during that fragile time.
This is why we should remember the brave little boy Chen Xiaotian and his equally courageous mother Zhou Lu. They handled the unthinkable with grace and have continued to inspire the world.