A Life Transformed

Misfortune happens, but with enough care and support, we can make sure that no one gets stuck in the rough.

Jiang Yong-xu shares his life story during a Tzu Chi year-end blessing ceremony in 2020. Zeng Xiu-ying

Tzu Chi volunteer Sun Yu-gui (孫玉貴) was shocked the first time she saw Jiang Yong-xu (江永旭) at his home in 2015. Jiang, a spinal injury patient, was a Tzu Chi care recipient. He conducted all of his daily activities on his bed; he ate, drank, went to the bathroom, and had himself washed without leaving his bed. He suffered from a bad case of leg ulcers, so much so that almost no skin on his legs was intact. He had been confined to his bed for over ten years. At age 34, he would have been in the prime of his life if it hadn’t been for a tragic accident that had left him permanently disabled.

Jiang was 19 when his cervical spine was injured in a fall from a high place at work, paralyzing him from the chest down. Deprived of his mobility, he had no choice but to depend for his every need on his parents, who cared for him without complaint. However, as time went by, his legs gradually began to atrophy and deform due to lack of activity and poor circulation. The skin on his legs became taut and cracked with dryness, leading to lesions, infections, and bleeding. The lesions were stubborn and refused to heal, even with the application of topical medicine.

He was in physically poor shape, but he wasn’t emotionally well either. Devastated by the loss of his physical independence, he felt that his life had lost all hope. He had started working after graduating from junior high school so that he could lighten his parents’ financial burden, but now, instead of helping them out, he had made their lives harder. His mother, Zhuang Qiong-hua (莊瓊華), even had to quit her job to take care of him. His family’s financial situation deteriorated as a result. Jiang couldn’t get past the unfairness of it all. “Why me, why me?” he asked over and over. Despair weighed him down like an anchor too heavy to throw off. He withdrew more and more into his own world and rarely spoke to others.

Jiang (left) receives a hong-bao at a Tzu Chi year-end blessing ceremony from Dharma Master De Chan (德禪) of the Jing Si Abode. The Abode is the Buddhist convent founded by Dharma Master Cheng Yen, and the hong-bao is a small, artistically designed red packet carrying blessings from Master Cheng Yen and Tzu Chi. Zhou Shi-Long

Volunteer Sun said that it was at their repeated cajoling and urging that Jiang finally agreed to medical intervention for the sores on his legs. They asked for help from Taichung Tzu Chi Hospital, in central Taiwan. In response, Superintendent Chien Sou-hsin (簡守信) personally visited Jiang at his home on September 19, 2015. He was accompanied by nurse Zhang Hua-ru (張華茹). The two examined him first and then set to work cleaning and dressing the lesions. As he worked, Dr. Chien, a plastic surgeon, explained to Jiang’s parents the proper way to care for the sores.

Jiang was deeply touched by the superintendent’s visit. “I was stunned actually,” Jiang said. “I couldn’t believe the superintendent would show up personally at my home, and even clean and dress my sores for a nobody like me.”

Nurse Zhang visited Jiang again the next day to show his mother how to care for her son’s leg sores. To help Jiang regain some level of independence, personnel at the Rehabilitation Department of Taichung Tzu Chi Hospital also began to arrange for him to undergo physical therapy at the hospital. Dr. Cai Sen-wei (蔡森蔚), a physiatrist, visited Jiang’s home to understand his physical condition and determine if a barrier-free environment was warranted. Such an environment might make it easier for Jiang to leave his home and go to the hospital for regular physiotherapy sessions.

On October 13, 2015, a bus for the disabled arrived at Jiang’s home to take him to the Tzu Chi hospital. The young man thus embarked on his path of physiotherapy—and a new life. That trip was the first time in 12 years he had seen the world outside his home. His hometown had changed quite a lot. The roads were different, and the scenery more beautiful than he remembered. Looking up at the azure sky, Jiang felt his mood lift immensely. He decided to work hard at physical therapy so that he could say goodbye to those dismal days of being cooped up in his bed staring up at the ceiling.

Jiang was hospitalized for a week. He underwent physiotherapy, and medical workers attended to the sores on his legs. Volunteers invited another spinal injury patient to visit Jiang and cheer him on. Social worker Wu Wan-yu (吳宛育) helped him apply for an in-home care provider as well as subsidies from the Tzu Chi Foundation to help him purchase a power wheelchair. Everyone worked together to help Jiang rebuild his life.

“When it comes to spinal injury patients,” said Superintendent Chien, “it is important to help them regain the ability to take care of themselves. It’s like opening a window of hope for the patients and their families.”

With everyone’s help and his own effort, Jiang was eventually able to break free from a dark period in his life. The sores on his legs healed with care, just as the wounds in his mind healed with everyone’s love. Continuous physical therapy, aided by acupuncture, helped him regain some of his physical functions. Today, he is well on his way to independence. He is a mouth painter, and earns extra money selling dried fruit online.

Looking back, Jiang said that it was something volunteer Sun said that shook him awake and prompted him to emerge from his dark interior world and actively seek medical help. “She told me bluntly, ‘How much longer do you want to stay bedridden like this? How much longer can your parents live and care for you?’” Her bluntness was like a wake-up call for him.

At Superintendent Chien’s encouragement, Jiang began training in 2020 to become a certified Tzu Chi volunteer. He was invited to share his story during a Tzu Chi year-end blessing ceremony that same year. His story was very powerful.

A woman named Yang in the audience couldn’t keep her tears from flowing as she listened to Jiang. She said that four of her family members had died in the past five years. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her brother had been diagnosed with spinocerebellar ataxia, a condition characterized by progressive problems with movement. Overwhelmed by it all, she fell into self-pity. But Jiang’s story gave her courage. Listening to his story of courage, she decided she’d do her best to be her brother’s emotional support and help him stay positive.

Jiang says he will continue to share his story to encourage more people to overcome their challenges in life, just as Tzu Chi has helped him transform his life. “Never bow to fate, no matter how difficult things are,” Jiang summed up. “Never give up hope, and you’ll come out a winner.”

Jiang’s mother, Zhuang Qiong-hua, presents a painting Jiang created to Chien Sou-hsin (right), superintendent of Taichung Tzu Chi Hospital. The gift was to thank Chien for his encouragement and assistance to help Jiang rebuild his life. Liu Zhe-ling


March 2021