The story of a strong-willed teacher at Wuhan University in Hubei province, who has been suffering from kidney problems for years but still insists on continuing to give lessons, has been shared widely on Chinese social media and received widespread local media coverage.
41-year-old Yu Gongmao was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm in 2012, resulting from genetic Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD). After that, he underwent surgeries on his brain and eyes, The Paper reports.
Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse in 2014, when the ADPKD relapsed and he was then diagnosed with kidney necrosis.
To survive, Yu had to undergo hemodialysis three times a week for the next one and half years, while he awaited a kidney transplant.
The 1.75-meter-tall English teacher’s weight dropped to just 55 kilograms during this time.
While school officials have advised him to stay home, Yu has continued his teaching. “The classroom gives me a sense of purpose and belonging,” he explains.
Yu likes to interact with students and give a lively lecture; however, sometimes he has to give lessons while kneeling on a chair when he feels too weak to stand up.
In his students’ eyes, Yu is hero and an optimistic and positive force in their lives. One student told reporters that he really admires his teacher because despite being so sick, he hasn’t missed a single class.
Yu keeps a box filled with cards and letters written to him by his former students, some sent from different cities across China and the world. He says that he finds as much comfort in those as pain in his disease and treatment. “It’s worth it, because even if you are just an ordinary teacher, they remember you,” he says.
When asked what drives him to continue to teach, he responds: “I love teaching, I like my students and they enjoy my classes. In addition, my colleagues all encourage me, so I don’t feel like I’m battling the disease alone.
Yu’s school has covered most of the medical fees for his treatment and his colleagues and students have donated money for his kidney transplant. He believes that he will be able to recover.
His story has tugged on the heartstrings of netizens on Weibo who also wished him the best of luck with his recovery.
One user @不可思议的汤包小黄 writes, “I really admire this kind of teacher. He’s amazing, but I also can’t help but worry about his health. I hope that a miracle will occur and he can continue to teach.”
“I hope that more will be done to raise awareness and help this teacher get better soon,” urged @跟着太阳去火星.
Last year we reported on a female teacher in Hubei, who despite a serious illness affecting her spine, had been able to continue teaching for three years by holding onto a rope during class to keep herself steady.
By Lucy Liu
[Images via Sina // NetEase]