Black-lung victim grateful for breath of life

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 July, 2004, 12:00am

Coal miner Zheng Dakai , 57, was excited as he held up a bottle of black liquid - darkened by coal dust and washed from his lungs.

The miner from Sichuan province said he could breathe without difficulty again, as his children borrowed money from friends to pay for his pneumoconiosis treatment.

'I feel so relaxed now, and I can breathe without a problem. Before, I felt such heaviness in my chest,' said Mr Zheng, a coal miner for more than 10 years. 'It was my dream and now it has come true. I can go back to earning money again.'

Yang Deyou , who used to run a gold mine in Guizhou , said traditionally there had been only two ways out for pneumoconiosis patients.

'The richer ones stay alive with expensive medicine,' he said. 'The poor ones just wait and die.'

Che Shenyan , a doctor at a hospital that treats pneumoconiosis patients in Beidaihe , said the medicine did little apart from offer psychological comfort.

'When you see the dust washed from their lungs, you know no medicine can help as much as getting the dust out,' Dr Che said.

'It is best if the patients are treated before they reach stage one of pneumoconiosis. But this will not be covered by insurance. [Usually] a patient is only covered if he or she is already diagnosed with pneumoconiosis, at stage one or above.' She said the hospital began offering treatment to patients with advanced forms of the disease, because it had now mastered the technology and it did not want to reject patients.

'A company sent 30 miners to our hospital. They all hurried back to work after their lungs were cleaned, because the miners earned about 6,000 yuan a month,' she said.

'They said they would come back [for more cleaning] a few years later.'




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