Home>Service> Global Love of Lives Award> 16th Fervent Global Love of Lives Award> Xu Chao-Bin, Taiwan—Schweitzer Reborn
 [I still have my right hand and right foot to safeguard the heartbeats of 4,141 patients.]  

What I care about the most is whether my being alive still has the power to move others . . .
—Xu Chao-Bin
 

Xu Chao-Bin is head of the Daren Township Public Health Center in the Taitung County. On the dawn of September 18, 2006, Xu, overworking for over 80 hours, suffered a severe stroke. After six months of recuperation, he was able to put behind the trauma of experiencing paralysis on the left side of his body. He said this to whomever he met, “I still have my right hand and right foot to safeguard the heartbeats of 4,141 patients.” He found the strength to keep caring for his patients. He related his experience to that of Chou Ta-Kuan, who fought bravely against the pain of cancer and composed the poem “I Still Have One Leg.” A government-supported student, he had to commit himself to public service for a period of time, but when that period ended in June 2009, he chose to stay—despite being offered high-paying job opportunities from three hospitals and one clinic—and to take care of minority patients.
The mountain trail to the Daren Township is hard to find on the map. Xu, giving up offers from big hospitals, took precisely this path. He came to this tiny village where medical resources are in short supply. He worked 16 hours a day without holidays. The distance it takes to make house calls around the mountain is equal to the total length of Taiwan, approximately 400 kilometers. Despite suffering a stroke at the prime-age of 39, he continued making the trip, using his right side of the body to care for others. He is a hero of the aboriginal people, and the paradigm of doctors of the younger generation.
Xu embraced life in a way that is characteristic of Paiwan aboriginals. He left the city for the remote countryside. Like Schweitzer, who dedicated his life to practicing medicine in Lambarena, Xu devoted himself to improving the medical environment of his hometown.

Heed the voice of those in need
This is where Taiwan’s most breathtaking ocean landscape can be seen, and the place where medical care services are regrettably lacking.
Formerly a doctor practicing in the city, Xu came to seaside Taitung in response to the calls of those in need of medical care. Born on 1967, Xu was a model student since childhood, receiving numerous awards for the hard work he put into studying. He went on to study medicine in Taipei Medical University Hospital. Upon graduating from medical college, he chose to enter the emergency department in Chi-Mei Hospital, where he faces challenge and pressure on a daily basis. In December 2000, he broke the record by rising to the position of attending physician in Chi-Mei Hospital in merely three years. He was also the only specialist physician in the emergency department to specialize in both inpatient and outpatient treatment. He soon became renowned for his adeptness at making accurate analysis of patients’ symptoms. 
In June 2002, he returned to his home at Daren Township, Taitung, assuming the position of the head of the Daren Township Public Health Center as well as a practicing doctor. He renovated the poorly-provisioned health center and turned it into a decent medical building with evening and weekend outpatient treatment services. He further pushed for a 24-hour medical service, and this led to the establishment of a 24-hour emergency service in Dawu Township in March 2006.
And it was this tremendous effort he put into providing modern medical services that dealt him a blow that left half of his body paralyzed. On September 18, 2006, he suffered a stroke due to overwork.

A vow made at the age of seven
The first time Xu learned about medicine wasn’t during his years as a medical student. As a child yet to learn the ways of the world, he often followed his grandmother, a famed shaman of the village, as she went about her business. Being the village shaman, it was her job to oversee village rituals as well as healing patients. Xu saw his grandma take out her box of treasures many times. He witnessed her mumbling incomprehensible words while holding unknown plants in her palm. Many patients who were on the brink of death were, miraculously, healed in this way. His curiosity for the medicine profession thus started to take root.
In 1970, his sister Anna was born. Her appealing character and quick mind soon won her father over. The first thing Xu’s father do upon returning home after working in the field all day was hugging Anna and kissing her on the cheek.
One afternoon, Xu’s big sister took him, Anna, and one other sibling to the papaya farm. After a while, they noticed one of Anna’s eyes was swollen red. When they came home, they found that her body had measles all over. They thought it was papaya juice that caused this allergic reaction and paid no more attention to it. But later on Anna got a fever, and she seemed fatigued and sickly despite her singing and smiling and moving about. The siblings would play games together, and Anna would oblige—she did not want to disappoint them, even though she did not feel well.
After days of high fever, Anna was finally sent to the hospital. One day after school, just when Xu started to miss his sister, he found her lying on the Japanese tatami at home. Being a boy of seven, he had no idea about the notion of death. He was simply bewildered—why was Anna sleeping, day and night? Why were the grown-ups formed into a circle around Anna crying so hard? His aunt told him, “Anna suffered from a complication of pneumonia due to her measles and left us.” His innocence then led him to ask his father, “When will Anna come back?” “She won’t come back,” his father tearfully replied.
On an evening when the moon was hidden, Xu’s father could not be found. Xu’s big sister took the rest of the siblings out under the roof, and they just sat there in the howling winds. Xu’s big sister proposed that they had a song. Xu knew her mind and immediately started singing, and his little sister followed suit. But her voice grew fainter, turning into sobs. Xu knew that his little sister, not yet five years old, would not understand why they could possibly sing. He felt tears welling in his eyes.
After a while, their father returned drunk, barely able to walk straight. But before they had gone to sleep together, suddenly he said to himself, “How could I leave her alone out there in the wilderness?” With that, he got up and walked out the door, and the children went with him. Guided by the moonlight, they went outside the village and into the mountain. Silently, they came before Anna’s tomb. Xu’s father kneeled and lamented, again and again, “It was my fault, dear daughter. I did not give you the help you need in time. The hospital was so far away . . . .” 
On many nights like this one, Xu’s father could not be found. The children had to wait side by side, right under the roof, waiting for their father to come home.
It was at a time like this that Xu vowed to himself in the darkness, “I will become a doctor. I will prevent people from losing their lives in vain.”

Keeping his vow
In June 2006, Xu transferred from Chi-Mei Hospital’s emergency department to Daren Township in Taitung. As the only doctor with scant medical resources, it is difficult to imagine how hard things were for him. But he was determined to keep his vow. The passion in him refused to give up.
At long last, with the 24-hour emergency station and the evening outpatient treatment service finally in place, Xu’s dream was realized. The emergency room was available to those who got sick or had an accident in the middle of the night. They no longer had to fear for their lives as they went on their way to the hospital.
Yet to make his dream come true, Xu had to endure much hardship. But he did not care. As he saw his plans come to fruition, he felt like a superman flying over the eastern coast of Taiwan, taking care of his patients in every moment.

Working 400 hours a month
Acquaintances who heard about Xu’s working conditions were astonished, calling him “the real superman.” Close friends and family would say, “Why do you have to make it so hard for you? Do you honestly think you can handle it? How worried do we have to be?” And Xu would reply, “How else could I have done it? Medical resources are scarce: it’s just a fact. If I’m not the one to make changes, who’s going to?” 
Content to have his dream fulfilled, Xu was not aware of the danger he was in. Deeply trusted and heavily relied on, he did not notice that his body could no longer properly function. He was gradually sliding into a quicksand.
And so, before he was hit by the stroke, he had been working continuously for over 80 hours. It was in the year 2006. Xu was just 39.

I still have my right hand and right leg.

His recovery progressed at half the rate he expected. But his concern for patients led him to return to Daren Township immediately after he had completed stroke rehabilitation. In April 2007, he went back to take up his duties as a doctor, yet he felt like he was walking on a tightrope. Fear gnawed at him constantly.
Due to the after effects of the stroke, Xu had to overcome the daily difficulties of putting on clothes, taking a bath, walking, etc. Things that he had taken for granted in the past now took him extra effort and time. 
What really gave him pause, however, was meeting colleagues and patients he hasn’t seen for months. What would they think of him, a man who used to be so vibrant with energy? Can a disabled doctor do his job well? What if a treatment required the deft use of both his hands, when he had only his good right hand to cope with it?
Xu remembered that, when he had finished doing the stroke rehabilitation therapy in Taitung Hospital, several doctors close to him thought it was such a pity that someone as talented as he was had to go through such ordeal. He remembered the patients suffering a stroke like he did were mostly elderly persons. They were curious about him—a young man, amongst those who were many years his senior. Xu smiled calmly in reply, but he could not hide the sadness.

Leave the shadow behind to embrace the sunlight overhead

One day, when Xu was doing rehabilitation therapy in Taitung, he chanced to meet a surgeon who had suffered cerebral infarction on the left side of his brain. More unfortunately for him, the damage done to his body part was particularly detrimental to his expertise as a surgeon.
Back when he was in the emergency department in Chi-Mei Hospital, he could never figure out why people committed suicide. Life was beautiful, wasn’t it? During the days when that stroke brought him down, Xu came to know frustration himself.
May 13, 2007, Xu celebrated his birthday alone—he had turned 40. In previous birthdays, he would have definitely invited friends over. But his time, he would like some time for himself to reflect on his darkest hour.
As the candle lights were lit, Xu faced his fragile soul alone. The complicated emotions he felt did not include hatred and regrets. What was there to hate or regret about? The choice was his to make, and he made it. There was nothing right or wrong, no one to judge. The tears came silently . . . but in the moment of despair, the lights of his hometown, the faces of his supportive colleagues, and the eyes of his patients shining with hope gave him strength. 
In the valley of life, Xu left the shadow behind and embraced the sunlight overhead.