Brave little Guo Bin was smiling when he was pushed into the operating theatre yesterday. He kept his promise that he would not cry, doctors said.
The six-year-old, whose eyes were gouged out in Shanxi, underwent a smooth four-hour operation in Shenzhen. He will eventually regain a normal appearance with the prosthetic eyes, but he will not be able to see.
"I asked him to promise me that he would not cry, and he did it," said hospital director Dr Dennis Lam Shun-chiu, who was part of the operating team.
"I told him it would hurt and he said no problem."
Bin flew in from Shanxi to Shenzhen with his parents on Sunday to receive free treatment at the C-MER Dennis Lam Eye Hospital. Lam said the boy had been very brave all along and was almost always cheerful.
He was given implants to fill his empty sockets. The procedure on his right socket was done without a hitch, but when doctors turned to the left one, the tissue was heavily scarred and unable to hold an implant. So they took a piece of skin and fat from his left buttock for a graft implant.
"I think the implantation will be successful. In another six months he will look like a normal person," said Dr Fairooz Manjandavida, who was in charge of the surgery.
Patients in such cases can usually be discharged after a few days, but since the family is from Shanxi, Lam said they would stay in the hospital until prosthetic eye pieces could be placed on the implants. This will be done in the next four to six weeks.
Mainland police said earlier that Bin's aunt maimed the boy. She killed herself six days after the attack on August 24. Before the operation the boy's parents had expressed their fear the operation would be an experiment. Lam reassured them that prosthetic eye implants were common.
Since the family had been traumatised by the attack, the hospital is arranging for local psychologists to talk to the parents and the boy. Experts from Hong Kong might also be brought in.
Lam is now thinking of arranging for other blind children to play with Bin.
"As a father with two children aged six and four, I thought of what I can do for little Bin-Bin."
His next plan is to teach him to use a navigation device - worn on the forehead or tongue - in the next few months. It captures images and translates them into electronic signals that stimulate the skin. The new technology from the US and Japan has not been used on the mainland or in Hong Kong.
Dozens of mainland, Hong Kong and foreign journalists arrived at the hospital yesterday. Security guards stood outside the in-patient area. The parents and the boy kept away from the press.
As well as covering Bin's medical fees, the hospital will work with a charity to collect money to pay for his future expenses and education.