After 4 years, quadriplegic can take a vacationIt’s 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday. A flight with Park Bok-hee, 30, on board has taken off at Gwangju Airport for Jeju Island. It’s Ms. Park’s first vacation in 15 years since she went on a middle-school field trip. But it’s not the only reason that this trip means a lot to her.
Ms. Park is at the moment suffering from a rigid form of quadriplegia, which means she can’t do anything without others’ assistance. She has spent four years at Kwangju Christian Hospital in Gwangju, South Jeolla province. All that time, Goh Min-yeong, 58, a caretaker, had been with her, even though it means Ms. Goh cannot travel, either.
Even though she’s in a wheelchair, Ms. Park gained an opportunity to travel to Jeju with Ms. Goh and her husband, Yoo Yeong-bong, 65. “I feel so great, I feel like I’m in a foreign country,” Ms. Park said.
Ms. Park and the Gohs were given the chance to go on vacation by Kwangju Christian Hospital and Beautiful Store, a non-profit charity organization. The hospital, which celebrates its 101st anniversary this year, decided to grant the wish of one of its disabled patients. Nurses and physical therapists recommended about 20 patients, and Ms. Park was chosen.
She was born with congenital cerebral palsy and was further disabled when she injured her neck at the age of 24. As a result, she lost all control over her body.
She first met Ms. Goh in October, 2002. In the first year, Ms. Goh received a small salary for taking care of Ms. Park. But after Ms. Park’s mother had a stroke and also had to be hospitalized three years ago, Ms. Goh has looked after her for free.
Ms. Goh herself is also disabled ― she limps because of a car accident 10 years ago in which she and her husband were injured. But she’s really dedicated to Ms. Park. She only visits her own home for about two hours in Friday afternoon. She helps Ms. Park to eat, take a shower and relieve herself. Mr. Yoo, who has an artificial leg, does the chores for the family.
“Even though we don’t share a drop of blood, I feel more attached to her than to my own daughter,” said Ms. Goh who has two sons and a daughter. “I rather feel sorry that I can’t do more for her because we’re not well off,” she added.
Ms. Park is not in contact with her parents and siblings, so the Gohs pay her monthly medical fees of about 300,000 won ($313) to 500,000 won, which can’t be covered by government aid.
In order to raise money for the trip, the hospital and the Beautiful Store branch in Gwangju held a “flea market” on June 22, selling about 1,200 items brought by the hospital’s doctors, nurses and staff members. They raised about 3 million won. Part of the fund was used for the trip and the rest will be spent on other expenses for the three. The hospital also sent a physical therapist with them, just in case Ms. Park has an emergency during the trip.
The hospital originally planned to let them stay one night and two days on the island, but with Ms. Park in poor condition, the trip was cut to just one day.
“We decided to send Ms. Park and the Gohs on the trip because we were impressed by their strong, touching affection,” said Kim Deok-hyeon, 52, a spokesman for Kwangju Christian Hospital.
by Lee Hai-suk, Yang Seong-cheol