09/04/05 — Meadow Lane student battles back from burns

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Meadow Lane student battles back from burns

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 4, 2005 2:07 AM

A Meadow Lane Elementary School fourth-grader whose life was drastically altered by a fire when he was 4 years old, continues to be transformed by the loving gestures of many lending support to him and his family.

Hualian Xu moved to America two years ago from China with his family, who speak no English. He got the attention of school counselor Vicki Phillips right away and has gone on to capture the hearts of students and staff alike, Meadow Lane principal Celia James said.

Ms. Phillips recounted Hualian's story this past February during the annual luncheon of the Wayne County Public Schools Counselors Association. The event honors students who have overcome adverse situations and gone on to inspire others.

Hualian was left with disfiguring scars on his face and body after his clothing accidentally caught fire at home, where incense was burning. He received some medical treatment in China before his father's job brought the family to this country.

The school staff has felt moved to assist the youngster, enlisting support from the local and national Shriners organization, which then made arrangements to aid in Hualian's recovery process.

Fred Scott of the Wayne Shriners Club recalled being notified about the need for assistance. The Shriners operate 19 orthopedic hospitals and three burn centers in the country, Scott said.

Introductions were made and the application process for treatment began in January.

"There was a long delay because we were waiting on a special person to do the surgery," he said. On Aug. 2, the little boy's surgery was performed at Shriners Burn Institute in Cincinnati.

The operation was the first of a series that will contribute to Hualian's extensive recovery, which will include physical therapy and regular monthly check-ups. He is expected to be treated until he is 18 years old, Scott said.

Able to start school with his classmates, Hualian returned to Cincinnati this past week to be fitted for a facial mask to help heal his facial scars.

A representative from the Shriner's Hospital visited the school to help fourth-grade classes adapt and support their fellow student. Ms. Phillips told students it would be helpful for them to know what to expect in dealing with the situation.

"You can be on our fourth-grade team," she told one assembly. "You can help make this person feel very comfortable and very safe and, who knows? You might want to be this person's friend."

Kami Hines, family services/care coordination, made presentations on Friday to six fourth-grade classes. She explained about the surgery and showed slides of the hospital and its operating room. And then she demonstrated the facial mask Hualian will have to wear daily for the next year.

"He'll only be able to take it off to eat or take a bath," she said of the customized hard-plastic head gear.

Passing around a sample mask, Ms. Hines explained that Hualian will look a little bit different but the mask is necessary to keep the affected area flat and ensure proper healing.

"It's very important that you not ask him to take it off," she said.

They will also play a vital role to others at the school, she told them.

"You'll be seeing lots of kids that don't know about him," she said. "So if you hear other kids asking questions or maybe teasing, can you be sure that you let them know why he's wearing the mask?

"You're the experts, so it's very important that you spread the word."

Scott said his organization has enjoyed playing in role in supporting the family.

"This young man, he's very quiet but he's a pleasure to work with," he said. "He appreciates everything that's done for him."

Ronghuan Xu, Hualian's father, speaking through an interpreter, expressed the family's appreciation for the generosity shown them. He thanked everyone involved, from the Shriners and the hospital to the school and its teachers.

Interpreter Katie Brooks said Xu was especially grateful for what the efforts have done for his young son.

"He said now he is real happy because (Hualian) knows everybody helps him," she said. "Hualian is happy and not like he used to be."
Ms. Phillips has also witnessed the change.

"He's definitely blossomed," she said. "He's got a good attitude toward learning and has made great progress in school. It's been a privilege to get to know him and get to know his family. I love him."

Mrs. James likens the transformation to a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

"He's a different child than he was when he came to us in second grade," she said. "I think this has been a strong team effort by the staff to address the needs of a student who came to us as a non-English-speaking student with some other special needs. They have used every resource available to try to help him adjust to our school environment and be happy and successful here."