SHIGATSE, the second-largest city in Tibet, is a long way from Shanghai, both in distance, wealth and culture. But there is a bond between the two cities that has endured and grown stronger for more than two decades.
Shanghai has been paired with Shigatse as part of a national assistance program, delivering experienced government officials, expertise and humanitarian aid from a rich city to a poorer backwater. Yesterday marked the eighth group’s anniversary.
Fifty-five program participants, including teachers and doctors, will be returning to Shanghai next month, with some new one-year team members taking over. A further 54 staff, mostly administrative, will stay on for two more years.
Most of the Shanghai participants in the program are men aged 25 to 55.
Wu Xing is one of 23 medical team members dispatched to Shigatse People’s Hospital last year. The neurosurgeon from Huashan Hospital will be returning home with 18 other medical staff. He said he had operated on more than 70 patients during his time in Tibet. Forty of the operations were complicated surgeries.
He recalled his first days in Tibet. “We were told to relax in the first week for adjusting to the high altitude,” he said. “However, on the sixth day there, a patient suffered a serious brain hemorrhage was sent to the hospital and I was called in.”
Wu’s first patient was a Tibetan man in 50s, who had a history of high pressure – a common affliction on the high plateau. When Wu arrived, his patient was bleeding in his brain. Emergency surgery was required. The operation was successful. “The longest surgery I ever had in Tibet was about 21 hours,” Wu told Shanghai Daily, referring to a brain tumor case. “It was truly hard work, and sometimes I had to rest awhile for oxygen inhale before continuing.”
In the past, without the help of the outside specialists, Tibetans could expect treatment only for surgeries outside the brain. But now, with the medical expertise and equipment Shanghai specialists took to Shigatse, brain operations and even deep locations are possible.
Since Wu and his team arrived, the death rate of neurosurgical patients at the Shigatse hospital has dropped by nearly a half.
“People used to give up when learning they had serious brain problems,” Wu said. “They had no hope. We have to give them that hope.”
Shanghai’s medical expertise obviously addresses a serious gap in the lives of Shigatse area residents. An equally important contribution is in educational development.
Fu Xin, vice principal of the High School Attached to Shanghai Normal University, has headed up the Shanghai Experimental School in Shigatse. He and a team of 39 members have turned the school into one of the best educational facilities in Tibet. It is the only school in the autonomous region that offers elementary to high school education under one roof.
Fu’s team introduced innovations like online classes, academic evaluation and a comprehensive database.