Loss of a son, and a granddaughter, hits home

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 February, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 February, 2003, 12:00am

The grief-stricken old woman lay in her bed, unable to speak and barely able to move as she sobbed and sang for the return of the son and granddaughter she lost over the space of just a few days.


Mrs Ko, a former Hong Kong resident in her 60s, has not left her house in a small village in Pingtan, Fujian, since February 4, when her eight-year-old granddaughter died of pneumonia.


And it was while she was still grieving for the little girl who came to visit her for Lunar New Year that Mrs Ko learned that her son, the girl's father, had succumbed to pneumonia on Monday.


Mrs Ko was inconsolable yesterday as she lay slumped on her bed. Occasionally she quietly sang traditional songs in the local dialect, begging for her son to return home.


A bottle of vinegar - a folk remedy to ward off influenza - was close at hand, as was some traditional medicine used by villagers to protect themselves from pneumonia.


One of the dead man's nieces told the Post yesterday that his daughter had not turned up for celebrations on the first day of the Lunar New Year.


The niece was told by Ko the girl had developed flu symptoms. Her condition was said to have deteriorated quickly and she was admitted to the Pingtan county hospital on February 3.


'When I visited the girl at the hospital, it seemed that her condition was quite serious,' the niece said. 'She was lying still on the bed.'


The girl died the following day and was immediately buried in a small hill opposite her relatives' house.


The cause of her death has not been established.


The niece said Ko was also ill and looked tired before he returned to Hong Kong for medical treatment, adding that his health had never been particularly good.


Ko, who died at Princess Margaret Hospital, had only stayed in the house in Jianglou village in Pingtan, about 120km from Fuzhou city, for two nights, including the night after the death of his eight-year-old daughter, according to his niece.


Jianglou village is like any other in the region in which locals raise livestock - including chicken, ducks and geese - to supplement their incomes.


The Ko family is no different. And, as Mrs Ko mourned yesterday, about a dozen hens scratched around in the dust outside.