China hospital ordeal for UK couple

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 March, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 March, 1993, 12:00am

A BRITISH couple arrived in Hongkong last night after a 12-day ordeal in a Sichuan hospital and said they were lucky to be back alive.

The two, Mr Alan Parsons, 27, and Ms Shada Kosir, 24, were involved in a bus crash on March 11. The vehicle rolled over after failing to negotiate a steep corner near Leshan.

They were hurled through the bus windows. Ms Kosir suffered two dislocated vertebrae and Mr Parsons sustained minor head injuries and bruised ribs.

It was the start of what was to be an adventure in mainland medical treatment.

Mr Parsons, sporting several stitches to the right side of his head, said last night they had been treated well but the lack of resources meant their stay was not a welcome one.

''We were up there for 12 days because the Chinese officials just couldn't tell the world what happened. There were no telephones and it took them more than a week to inform the British Embassy in Beijing of what happened,'' Mr Parsons, an engineer, said.

Despite Ms Kosir's condition, they were moved to Leshan hospital by local bus. Once the doctors diagnosed the problem, Ms Kosir was told to remain in bed. But the language barrier prevented them from telling her of their treatment plans.

At one point, they apparently thought the student teacher had sprained her neck and attempted to straighten it out by manipulating it.

''They must have had about 20 people around me trying to keep me down while the doctor tried to twist it back into place,'' Ms Kosir said last night while lying perfectly still at St Teresa's Hospital. None of the doctors spoke English at all, but I knewI couldn't move my neck and they still tried to move me.

''There were times that we thought we wouldn't get out of there alive.'' Three 18-year-old student nurses were found from the local Leshan population and were assigned to care for Ms Kosir full-time.

Despite the warmness of doctors and nurses, the couple said conditions at the hospital were uncomfortable. The facility was not heated and all patients were subjected to 7 am wake up calls when they were served cold congee and eggs for breakfast.

Mr Parsons said his back had been sore throughout their stay and only began to be less painful when they arrived in the warmer climate.

Sichuan officials finally managed to contact British authorities in Beijing last Thursday, who then contacted the couple's families in the UK.

Arrangements were then made through their travel insurance companies and AEA International Services of Hongkong, which specialises in the medical evacuation of travellers from around Asia.

The couple were transported out of Leshan by a Chinese military Black Hawk helicopter armed with rockets. The airlift is believed to be the first such peaceful use of the aircraft in China.

They were taken to the Sichuan capital of Chengdu where a Challenger jet owned by China United Airlines - a branch of the military - waited to transfer them to Shenzhen.

A helicopter with clearance to land at Kai Tak then arrived with the couple at 7.20 pm yesterday.

Mr Parsons is expected to recuperate at St Teresa's for a few days while Ms Kosir will undergo tests today to determine the full extent of her injuries.

When asked if she would return to China, she said: ''I would like to go back up there, but I'm not sure I would go back on a bus.'' The couple were on the final leg of a visit through Asia and had planned to visit Tibet before going home.