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Money for dialysis from selling smiles, made possible by art teacher

/ 12:58 PM August 22, 2018

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One art teacher has decided to fight her potentially fatal kidney disease with a smile, literally and figuratively.

The art teacher named Zhu Ya, 26 years old, of Chongqing in southwest China, was diagnosed with uremia, a progressive renal failure that requires regular dialysis, last May.

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Zhu was crestfallen when she realized she had no prospect of receiving a kidney transplant, reported South China Morning Post last Aug. 19. She also despaired over the sky high medical bills that would come with her treatment.

Although Zhu initially felt discouraged, she has since went to great efforts to try and raise money for her treatment. Since Zhu’s family cannot afford her dialysis, she has made it her undertaking to go to streets of her town and sell smiley stickers to passers-by. Apart from stickers, Zhu also offers a smile for one yuan a minute, the report stated.

Zhu sits in a wheelchair outside her local railway station, bringing with her a sign that says, “Selling smiles to save myself.” Zhu also put her medical records on display for transparency, showing passers-by that she is for real.

The medical records bore a text that read, “Only a kidney transplant can save me… I long to survive, I hope I can smile everyday, and I wish I could repay my mother.”

It’s known that Zhu’s parents, He Jiangxia and Wang Jiang, weren’t able to donate their kidneys due to incompatibility in blood types. This leaves dialysis as the only option for Zhu, a procedure that would cost her a fortune, especially since she’s required to undergo dialysis four times a day.

“When I was in [the] hospital a month ago, the woman who was next to my bed, and was only a year younger than me, was crying every day, which also made her parents cry a lot,” Zhu was quoted as saying. “I don’t want that to happen to my family.”

Zhu’s selling of stickers in the streets has attracted passers-by, some giving her more than the one yuan she asked in exchange for a smile.

“Some strangers gave me far more than a yuan for a sticker, like 10 yuan or even 50 yuan. And one kind women even came to my house after finding my home address. I was so moved.” Zhu said in the report.

Zhu’s story, too, started to make the rounds in social media, compelling people around China to reach out to her and help. To assist in raising funds, Zhu created a fundraising platform online, amassing over 33,000 yuan ($4,800) by mid-August.

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The positive reception of others to Zhu’s story has helped her in her advocacy that people shouldn’t fear their illness, “but only pessimism.”

“When I see healthy people feeling unhappy about the hardness in their lives, I think they should change their attitude towards life,” she said in the report. “We only live once, and we can choose to live happily.”

Perhaps one letdown that Zhu has come to accept with her illness is her inability to have children. As per Zhu, she’ll never be able to have kids because of her kidney disease — a plight that comes as a heavy blow for someone living in a culture that shames and shuns childless couples.

But Zhu’s husband did not abandon her despite the harsh reality of her illness, as she added, “[He] even said to me it might be even better to have no kids at all. I will always feel I owe him something.” Cody Cepeda/JB

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TAGS: art teacher, China, fundraising, kidney disease, kidney transplant, Smile, uremia
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