LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - A young girl traveled 7,000 miles away from her home outside of Beijing, China to the Hub City where through the generosity of others she received the tools to embark on a new chapter in her life.
Lubbock gave 15-year-old Lena Li a gift, a gift that will give her the ability to reach out and touch lives. With help from a translator, a Texas Tech graduate student, we tell you how a tragic accident 11 years ago started the journey that brought her to West Texas.
Her smile lights up the room. Like most teenagers, she loves to laugh, eat and spend countless hours on the computer chatting with friends. But unlike most teenagers, Lena Li has to be a little more creative.
"I had the accident when I was age 4. February of that year," she recalls. Lena went outside to play in her home town of Handan, a poor farming community four hours south of Beijing. "She saw a power transformer and the sun was shining on it and she thought it was pretty and she touched it and the unfortunate thing happened," says Li about the day that changed her life.
The high voltage pulsed through her limbs. The electricity singed her skin down to the bone on both arms.
"She said she was very young at the time, so she didn't feel much fear," says Li through her translator. But what happened next would scare any 4-year-old. "Her dad said I won't leave you, when she woke up she found her dad wasn't there anymore. So she cried a lot," says Li.
Now orphaned, with both arms bandaged from shoulder to finger-tip strangers carted Lena from village to village searching for help. She says one man even tied her to his motorcycle with rope since she couldn't hold on and dropped her off with a wealthy woman.
Almost two months after the accident, Lena went into surgery. "She was asleep when the doctors took her arms," she says.
"What can you do with a child in an agrarian society with no arms? Sometimes Chinese families do that in order to save the child's life because there's no healthcare, and they can't afford to pay for it," says Executive Director of Partners in Development Worldwide.
Years after Lena's accident, Gallaway's team met Lena at her orphanage while on a trip to China. His faith-based organization has helped hundreds over the past few years. Lena is one of 15 special needs children living with her foster parents outside of Beijing.
"It's all coming full circle that I'm getting to do that for others to help them through their crisis," says Gallaway.
Dr. Gallaway understands Lena's crisis better than most. "The electricity destroyed my right arm, left hand, left elbow and some ribs," says Gallaway. He lost use of his right arm and left hand when he was 18 in an electrical accident. He says he hopes he has shown Lena that she too can beat the odds.
"To provide a model of someone with two artificial limbs who went to university and graduate school and has worked to support a family is a paradigm shift for her and everyone I meet in China," says Gallaway.
He adds that no average working person in China could afford artificial limbs. Farmers on average earn $1 a day and the prosthetics Lena needs alone cost nearly $15,000. But through donations and countless hours from people across the world and here on the South Plains, enough money was raised to bring Lena to Lubbock for a priceless gift.
"We thought her use would be mostly cosmetic, but she has just blown us away with what all she can do," says Prosthetist Jason Phillips with Lubbock Artificial Limb.
"I've watched her confidence grow and her self esteem grow," adds Gallaway. But Lena's happiness requires no translation.
"She came with one way of living with one set of possibilities and in five weeks she was born into a new life and new abilities for the rest of her life," says Gallaway about Lena's growth. She hopes to one day return the favor and says that when she grows up she wants to help those in need and be like the families that have helped her.
The Gallaways have hosted Lena and her foster father Erin for the past five weeks and they leave for China Monday morning. Gallaway says nearly $400,000 a year is donated from people in the area to Partners in Development Worldwide to help those in need like Lena.
If you would like to help those like Lena, (click here).
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