How a tiny orphan boy beat medical odds and is now hoping for adoption ... and a life

Zheng Minke may have been dealt a cruel blow at birth by fate, but Hong Kong medical staff are calling for a suitable family to adopt the little warrior

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 January, 2017, 9:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 11:09am

A two-year-old boy scurries down a hospital corridor, leaping into the arms of nurses who fawn over him as he proudly demonstrates how to put on a rubber glove on his left hand.

It’s hard to imagine that two years ago, cherubic Zheng Minke was fighting for his life on a hospital bed after his parents abandoned him in Zhengzhou, a city in China’s eastern Henan province.

Today, he is in the good hands of medical staff and is hoping for a suitable family to adopt him.

Unlike other children who are born healthy, Zheng’s short childhood was fraught with difficulties.

At seven months old, he was rushed to hospital after his kidney became seriously infected to a point where his organs were on the brink of failure.

“He was literally dying,” his doctor, John Ngan Hin-kay, recalled.

Zheng, who has a rare congenital condition called urethral duplication – where a person has two abnormally narrow urethras instead of a proper one – has spent most of his young life in and out of hospitals.

With only one kidney and an abnormal urinary tract, Zheng has not been able to urinate properly from birth, causing blockage in his bladder and recurrent kidney infections.

There have only been 20 such reported cases around the world, according to Ngan.

Zheng’s rare condition was brought to the attention of a team of specialists at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital through the support of a local charitable organisation.

The boy received intensive care and is now in a stable condition.

Zheng also has a deformed left hand – a missing bone, finger and some muscles – from birth, but this has no bearing on his health. His doctor says this can be fixed in the long run, but it is not urgent.

Nurses say that he weighs only 9.4kg – children his age should be well over 10kg – but despite the cruel card fate has dealt him, his bright personality and spark for life shines through.

Who can change his life? Whoever adopts him can change his life. We cannot change his life, we can just give him a chance to have a life
Dr Ngan Hin-kay

But Zheng’s future is still in limbo. Without parents to care for him, complex surgery like a kidney transplant, which he will need as he gets older, will be difficult in terms of long-term care planning.

“If we were to perform any further procedures on the child that would have permanent effects, we have to ensure that his caregivers, whoever they are, will understand everything about this child’s needs [and be there for him],” Ngan, who is also the founder of MedArt, the charitable organisation supporting Zheng, said.

In Hong Kong, Zheng is not eligible to be on the organ transplant waiting list unless he is made a permanent resident through adoption.

Families from other countries around the world can also adopt him.

On the mainland, more stringent adoption processes and preferences make it even less likely for an adoption.

“A peculiar thing about China is that most parents are only willing to adopt ‘healthy’ children … [but] most [abandoned] children in institutions are disabled,” said Dr Cheryl Chui, who specialises in research on mainland orphans and social welfare at the University of Hong Kong.

Mainland figures show that Zheng is one of at least 500,200 documented orphans.

Since 2003, Ngan and his team of doctors have treated more than 500 orphans on the mainland through their outreach programme. Some 105 orphans have been adopted after life-changing surgery.

But medical care for orphans goes beyond just surgery, as it is also a matter of authority.

A discussion by a team of nurses and medical assistants was needed before making a decision on something as simple as a haircut for Zheng.

“I do not have authority over the child. We wish for adoption in the end, because that’s going to be his ultimate hope,” Ngan says.

Until then, it’s a battle of keeping him stable enough to be sent back to his foster home in Beijing.

“Who can change his life? Whoever adopts him can change his life. We cannot change his life, we can just give him a chance to have a life,” Ngan said.

Anyone interested in adopting the boy should email info@medart.org.hk or call 3549 6930.