In the industrial city of Liuzhou, where Katie once lived, the head of the local Red Cross office, Song Xianmin, organized meetings with reporters and visits to a blood donation bus and Katie’s old orphanage.
Many Chinese are unwilling to donate due to traditional beliefs that discourage the removal of body parts. And some fear pain during the procedure or damage to the donor’s health.
On Thursday, Cramer saw the first results of her campaign. A 33-year-old ethnic Zhuang construction worker had seen her on the previous night’s news and felt it was his duty to respond. A 19-year-old student who met Cramer on the blood donation bus signed up to be a donor.
Barely able to speak, Cramer made a tearful call to Katie to let her know people were responding. “Your story has touched many, many people here in Liuzhou and people are coming out … to register,” she says.
Back at the hotel, she talks to Katie on Skype with more than a dozen reporters watching. Katie is sitting up in bed and feels better, she says. Song, the Red Cross official, tells her through a translator: “The people of your hometown all hope and wait for you to return to visit Liuzhou after you are better.”
As Cramer packs her bags, she is tired but pleased.
“At the end _ and this will have an end, whether the way I want it to go or the way I don’t want it to go _ I wanted to know that I did everything that I could have done,” she says. “I don’t want to have any regrets, to say, ‘Why didn’t I go?’”
China’s donor program will send blood samples of any potential matches to its U.S. counterpart for further testing. If a perfect match is found, the donor needs to pass a physical examination before a decision is made on a transplant.
“Now,” Cramer says at the airport in Liuzhou, “We wait.”
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By Elaine Donnelly
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