China Care Clubs Alumna Amanda Fuller

May 5, 2010

I started working with China Care during high school when Victoria Stockman and I started a club at Greenwich Academy in Connecticut in 2003. Today, my sister, Haley Fuller, is running the Greenwich Academy China Care Club with Kate McCarty – and is doing an amazing job!

When I arrived at NYU in 2005, I was thrilled to find out that Erica Swallow and Alice Chen had just formed a China Care Club. It was great to find other people at NYU who shared my passion for China Care so quickly. Working with them and Jackie Espana to plan events and raise money was a great experience. Starting a club, growing membership, and learning how the systems in place work is not an easy job. We all worked as a team and chipped in to do what was needed. I functioned as club treasurer for most of my time with the NYU China Care Club, but spent most of my time organizing events.

After I graduated from NYU’s business school, I started working as an associate at W. P. Carey & Co., but I have never forgotten the lessons I learned from my China Care experiences in high school and in college, especially the lessons I learned from a little girl named Fang.

I met Fang on a summer volunteer trip to China with nine other high school China Care Club members (and a few moms, including mine). I was immediately drawn to Fang, who was 7 years old and had cerebral palsy; she could not walk, could barely crawl and was nearly blind.

I couldn’t help contrasting my life with the lives of these orphaned children, especially Fang. I have congenital hip dysplasia, a common condition that varies greatly in severity. But unlike Fang, I was born in a place where my parents were able to obtain the very best medical treatment. I had some pain, some slight restrictions in movement, but, to most people, I was a normal, healthy little girl. I ran, I played sports, I danced. But by age 16 my condition had worsened -- I had osteoarthritis in my left hip. By the time I met Fang I was 18 and had two unsuccessful hip surgeries, the second only six months before I went to China.

Fang is a very smart girl and I enjoyed speaking to her in Mandarin, but I quickly realized that what she really wanted was to play outside, so I would pick her up and put her on the upper level of the playground. She couldn’t see well, but when I popped my head in at the end of the tunnel she would get so excited! I would guide her to the slide and she would squeal with delight as she came down. “Again! Again!” she cried in Mandarin. My hip began to hurt, but seeing her so happy pushed me forward.

One day we sat in the shade away from the hot summer sun and watched some of the boys playing soccer. Fang knew what was going on, that she could never play soccer—I had watched her wince in pain crawling along the playground to get to that wondrous slide. But she never complained. She was so proud and so strong.

Just a year earlier, I had been sitting in a hospital bed whining and crying, convinced I would never walk again. Unlike me, Fang didn’t focus on what she couldn’t do. Instead, she enjoyed the happy moments. That day she felt my earring and became intrigued by the texture of the little beads all connected together. I gave her one to play with.

I started thinking about this beautiful, smart little girl, physically crippled and mentally acute. All she had ever known was this place. I was there only a week, but at least I made her smile. I couldn’t believe how much self-pity I had indulged in while I was being treated by the best doctors in the world.

When we got to Beijing where we would fly home, the pain in my hip was too great for me so I bought a cane—I had been too proud to walk with a cane before. The next year I faced surgery with Fang’s strength in my mind. I had the best surgeons in the world and I was thankful. It was a success.

When our group left China, all I could think about was going back. Now four years later, the cane I bought in China is sitting on the corner of my desk, supporting my weight yet again. I am facing another surgery, this time on my right hip, and again I am trying, like Fang, to focus on what I have and what I can do. I enjoy the moments when the pain isn’t so bad and when I’m surrounded by people who care about me. I am immensely thankful for China Care, my amazing job and good health insurance. I wish I could see Fang again and thank her for the strength she gave me.

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