- A 17-year-old with cerebral palsy died after his father and brother were put in quarantine in China over coronavirus suspicions.
- Yan Cheng’s father sought help on Weibo, saying that his son had been left by himself for six days without food or water.
- Two local Chinese officials have lost their jobs after the teenager died.
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A 17-year-old with cerebral palsy died after being left alone and without care for six days while his father was quarantined in China over suspicions of having contracted the novel coronavirus.
The family lived in the Hubei province of China, where the deadly coronavirus broke out, and the boy, named Yan Cheng, was found dead on January 29, the South China Morning Post reported based on information from the Beijing Youth Daily. His death is under investigation, local government officials said, and no cause is known as yet.
Cheng, his 49-year-old father, Yan Xiaowen, and his 11-year-old brother, who has autism, left Wuhan on January 17 and headed to ancestral village in Huahe township in Hongan county to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Three days later, however, Xiaowen came down with a fever, the Post said.
Local officials on January 24 put Xiaowen and his younger son in quarantine at a medical facility, which left Cheng at home and without access to food, water or care. Worried about Cheng and afraid that local Communist Party officials entrusted with his care were not doing their job properly, Xiaowen on January 28 sought help on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, according to the Post.
Left alone for 6 days with ‘nobody to bathe him or change his clothes and nothing to eat or drink’
His post, which included photographs of him and Cheng and his identity card, said: “I have two disabled sons. My older son Yan Cheng has cerebral palsy. He cannot move his body, he cannot speak or look after himself. He has already been at home by himself for six days, with nobody to bathe him or change his clothes and nothing to eat or drink.”
Stiff muscles, tremors, seizures, and difficulty walking, swallowing and eating are among a long list of symptoms those with cerebral palsy suffer, according to the Mayo Clinic. Depending on the severity of the illness, some people with cerebral palsy can walk while others need special aids, the CDC says. Still others, however, might not be able to move on their own at all and need lifelong care.
Xiaowen also shared a screenshot of his phone log, which showed that 10 calls had taken place between him and the village party secretary on that day alone, the Post reported.
‘I fear that my child will soon die’
He added: “The government and hospitals don’t have any protective clothing to spare. I fear that my child will soon die. Please everybody, help send some protective suits to Yanjia village in Huahe township, Hongan county, Hubei province!”
Another post on Xiaowen’s Weibo account said that village party officials told him that Cheng had been fed twice between January 24 and January 28. However, his social media account has since been deleted, the Post found.
Officials had originally planned to place both Cheng and Xiaowen in quarantine in the same hotel on January 29, but the teenager died that afternoon, according to a report by Damihexiaomi, a WeChat publishing platform that campaigns on behalf of families of children with autism and other illnesses.
The boy’s aunt told Damihexiaomi that she fed Cheng three times and changed his clothes twice during the six days that he was alone. Her own poor health prevented her from doing more. When she stopped by to take care of Cheng on Tuesday, his condition was already on the decline, the Post reported.
She was quoted in the report as saying, “He was lying on a lounge chair but his head was hanging. His face and mouth were dirty, as well as his duvet. I washed his face and mouth with boiled water, changed his underclothes, and fed him some water and a small half-cup of rice, but he couldn’t eat any more.”
Cheng’s death prompted the dismissal of 2 local officials
Cheng’s case is trending on social media and has led to the local Communist Party secretary and mayor of the town of Huajiahe being sacked, BBC News reported.
According to the Post, a Huahe township employee told Beijing Youth Daily that Hongan county was looking into Cheng’s death.
“Now, the oversight [monitoring] of cadres is very strict, there is no way we could have left a boy with cerebral palsy at home with nobody looking after him,” the employee said. “We have, of course, done our work, but the fact is that he had died, higher authorities are investigating and they will naturally have a fair and just response.”
The novel coronavirus outbreak was first reported on December 31 and has so far killed 426 people and spread to over 20,000 people in more than two dozen countries. Officials are scrambling to build makeshift hospitals in Wuhan and have even begun transforming a local sports stadium, exhibition centre, and cultural complex into medical facilities.