American care-giver helps paralyzed former gymnast

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American care-giver helps paralyzed former gymnast

LOS ANGELES ― Kim So-young, 35, was once a promising gymnast. But tragedy struck in 1986 during her training for the Asian Games.
Practicing on the parallel bars just 20 days before the games began, Ms. Kim slipped and landed badly, breaking her neck and leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.
Having to forego her dream of winning a gold medal, she sought a new focus in life and decided to do volunteer work for the poor.
Four years ago, she went to the United States to study counseling, in hopes of helping other disabled people in Korea. It was there that she met Jenny Siemens, an American “life savior,” whom she calls “an angel.”
Ms. Kim met Ms. Siemens at Masters College in Valencia, California. Last year, the young American took a break from school to help Ms. Kim in her daily life.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, Ms. Siemens stays with Ms. Kim in her dorm room, helping her take baths, putting on clothes and preparing food without complaint.
When they first met each other, they only greeted each other in the hallway.
One year later, they stayed in the same dormitory and became very close to each other. Ms. Siemens helped Ms. Kim, who was having a hard time with her English, with homework, and Ms. Kim taught Ms. Siemens how to speak Korean.
Ms. Siemens decided to become a care giver last May. Ms. Kim, who can barely move her upper body and can do little without the help of another person, had difficulty finding a care giver to assist her. Ms. Siemens offered to help Ms. Kim for free, though at first, Ms. Kim turned her offer down.
However, Ms. Kim could not find any other help over her summer vacation, and ended up asking Ms. Siemens.
Ms. Siemens replied that she would be happy to help.
Ms. Siemens graduated in May and was prepared to go to graduate school to become a teacher, but she decided to postpone her studies for a year to help Ms. Kim.
“I thought it was difficult to get close to Americans because of the language barrier, but she became the only friend I could open my heart and talk to. Now we can read each other’s minds by looking into each other’s eyes. I am grateful, very grateful,” Ms. Kim said with tears in her eyes.
A devoted Christian, Ms. Siemens said, “If it weren’t for So-young, I would not have had this kind of opportunity to give love. So, on the contrary, I am thankful to So-young.”
Next year when she graduates from her school, Ms. Kim plans to return to Korea.
“Unlike in the United States, where facilities for the handicapped are well established, I think there are more opportunities to help others. I was given more love than I deserve, and it is time for me to return that love,” Ms. Kim said.


by Chang Yon-hwa
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