After dinner, everyone returned to their own rooms.
Tao Xiaodong’s and Tang Suoyan’s were side by side.
Not many were assigned single rooms like they were, and Tao Xiaodong’s room was the deepest in.
As they walked through the corridor, Tang Suoyan inquired, “Your room faces the wind outside; I expect it gets a bit chilly.”
“I’m a deep sleeper, so I wouldn’t know if it does anyway.” Tao Xiaodong yawned, saying, “Even I’m dead beat, let alone you guys.”
The conversation kept going until they walked up to their doors, whereupon Tang Suoyan said, “Have an early night.”
You, too,” said Tao Xiaodong.
They were each in their own rooms after closing the doors, but the noise insulation was so poor that even the sound of footsteps could be heard.
The walls partitioning their rooms were possibly too thin or hollow inside.
In short, people could hear the activity next door.
It wasn’t too bad for single rooms, but conversations in rooms with multiple occupants would leak through the walls.
Just when Tao Xiaodong laid down after his shower, a call from Tao Huainan came in.
He chatted with the other for a while.
Tao Huainan was trying to put on a mask of normalcy and cheeriness, but Tao Xiaodong could still tell that he wasn’t in high spirits.
However, he didn’t ask a word about it.
The child had reached the age that they tended to have an overactive mind.
It was fickle, changing from one day to the next; there wasn’t a need to probe.
Tao Huainan asked him on the phone, “Did Dr.
Tang mention me”
“He did,” Tao Xiaodong told him.
“He called you well-behaved.”
Tao Huainan laughed.
“Help me say hi to Dr.
“Sure, will do that tomorrow.” Tao Xiaodong shut his eyes.
“You should sleep soon.”
Goodnight, Ge.” Tao Huainan said softly.
Tao Xiaodong crashed immediately after hanging up.
He hardly felt like he’d slept for long when he heard footsteps and running water from next door.
He checked his phone.
It was just after six o’clock.
Tang Suoyan left his room at that hour, only coming out of the hospital when stars were strewn across the skies.
He subsisted the entire day on a slice of bread in the morning, skipping lunch and dinner.
Today, he performed over seventy cataract surgeries.
A simple surgery like this didn’t pose a challenge, but the day’s work still wore him down, turning his legs stiff from standing.
After the surgeries, he still had to attend meetings to discuss the treatment for patients coming in the next day.
Some more complex eye diseases were unable to be treated here due to the inadequate facilities.
Such cases required special treatment plans, whether to start by treating a part of the condition or otherwise, for it was pointless to just do surgery for cataract extraction by suction when it came to the trickier cases.
However, this was fundamentally a local project, only aimed at providing aid in this area.
Any future costs at hospital transfers for further treatment would have to be shouldered by the patients themselves.
As such, many patients didn’t follow up on their subsequent treatments.
It was even more unrealistic for them to be transferred to San Hospital.
They didn’t take in patients on welfare support.
The hospital’s resources were finite.
Its existing patients were already many times beyond the hospital’s available capacity, and surgery had to be booked several months in advance.
Under such circumstances, it was unrealistic for San Hospital to accept innumerable patients on welfare support as well.
On the third day, Tao Xiaodong chanced upon someone he recognised.
A Tibetan woman with a large backpack sat on the steps by the hospital entrance.
The sunlight beat straight down on her, but she seemed inured to it.
She had a burgundy scarf wrapped around her head, and her cheeks were ruddy from the harsh wind and sun year in year out, though the colour wasn’t that deep yet due to her young age.
Her eyes fixed on a spot without shifting.
While the noisy crowd bustled about, she was as quiet as a statue.
Tao Xiaodong was a bit uncertain if he had gotten the right person when he saw her.
The year that Sang Bu had taken them to his tent, Sang Bu’s young wife was only nineteen, smiling too shyly, like she hadn’t come across many strangers before.
She had the ruddy cheeks distinctive to young Tibetan women and left immediately after serving them pastries and buttered tea.
If it weren’t for the birthmark on her chin, Tao Xiaodong certainly wouldn’t have been able to recognise her.
Tao Xiaodong walked over.
She lifted her gaze and looked at him, then averted her line of sight, turning her body marginally away.
“Are you Sang Bu’s wife” Tao Xiaodong asked, speaking softly so as to not scare the other.
She lifted her head to look at Tao Xiaodong again, surprise written all over her face.
Tao Xiaodong bent down a little and spoke to her.
“Do you still remember me My car broke down some time back and Sang Bu brought me and my friend over to your place.
Your name is… I kind of forgot.
I recall that it means flower.”
She studied Tao Xiaodong’s face, then smiled when it came back to her.
She hugged her backpack, nodding.
“I remember that.
I remember you.
It’s plum blossom; my name is Mei Duo.”
Her Mandarin was taught by Sang Bu.
Her pronunciation was awkward.
Before Tao Xiaodong could speak, she said in a hurry, “Sang Bu has been waiting for you.
He talks about you often.”
“I’ve already gone to see him.” Tao Xiaodong pointed at his own eyes.
“He said that you came for an eye check-up.
What happened to your eyes”
The smile on Mei Duo’s face dimmed at the mention of this.
People pure in heart couldn’t hide emotion from their expressions.
The subject of her eyes turned her visibly worried.
Tao Xiaodong already had a difficult time following her long sentences, so when she began to ramble at length, Tao Xiaodong couldn’t make heads or tails of it.
“I can’t catch what you’re saying; slow down,” Tao Xiaodong told her.
The two of them strenuously conversed for a long time at the hospital’s entrance.
In actuality, Mei Duo didn’t quite remember the terms either; Tao Xiaodong only got one word out of it—tumour.
Mei Duo said that the doctor had advised her to transfer to another hospital, for they were incapable of treating her here.
Tao Xiaodong asked, “Where can they treat this”
Mei Duo said, “I’ve to go to Lhasa, or even further out.”
She truly didn’t have a deep understanding of what exactly she was afflicted with.
To her, she merely saw shadows in her vision.
Though they didn’t cause any pain, the doctor urged her to be examined at a larger hospital as soon as possible, that she shouldn’t delay it any further.
Tao Xiaodong was unable to make headway with her.
Their back-and-forth expended too much energy.
It wasn’t too late into the night when Tang Suoyan returned to his room, already much earlier than he had the previous two days.
Tao Xiaodong opened the door when he heard footsteps, and once he did, he saw that Tang Suoyan was massaging his right wrist with his other hand.
Seeing Tao Xiaodong, Tang Suoyan asked, “Not resting yet”
“Not yet,” Tao Xiaodong said to him, “I want to ask you about a patient, Dr.
Tang Suoyan asked, slightly surprised, “Were you waiting for me”
“Yeah, I waited the whole night,” said Tao Xiaodong.
Tang Suoyan laughed at this.
“Couldn’t you have dropped me a call”
“I was afraid you’d be busy.” Tao Xiaodong smiled.
“I’ve plenty of time, anyway.”
While unlocking the door, Tang Suoyan said, “You can text me next time, then.
I’ll call you back when I see it.”
He got Tao Xiaodong to sit down and wait for a few minutes as he took a set of clothes to the bathroom.
When he came out, he had changed out of the dress shirt he was wearing.
This seemed to be the first time that Tao Xiaodong saw him in something else.
“Changed out of my clothes.” Tang Suoyan came over, rubbing his wrist.
“I’m too tired.”
“That’s only expected.
I saw that you guys didn’t get to rest the entire day.” Tao Xiaodong had returned to his own room to grab tea whilst Tang Suoyan was changing just now and was now brewing a cup for Tang Suoyan.
Tang Suoyan pulled a chair over as well.
Apart from the bed, there were only these two chairs to sit on in the room.
The two of them were each holding a double-layered paper cup with the teabag that Tao Xiaodong had brought over.
There was only so much they could do under such conditions.
Both feeling that this environment was a bit rudimentary for a chat, they were smiling even before they started to talk.
“You said that you wanted to ask about a patient” Tang Suoyan asked him.
“Who is it”
“She has come by twice already; she said that you were the one who saw her.
She couldn’t really tell me what it’s about when I asked, I only know that there’s some kind of tumour.” Tao Xiaodong’s smile faded.
He opened a photo on his phone for the other to have a look.
It was Mei Duo’s orbit CT scan.
Tang Suoyan took it over, recalling when he saw it, “I did see her.”
“What does she have” Tao Xiaodong looked at Tang Suoyan.
“Is it serious”
Tang Suoyan slid a glance at him before saying, “It can’t be definitively diagnosed yet, the tests are still incomplete.
They can’t be done over here.” After saying this, he asked him, “Are you acquainted with the patient”
Tao Xiaodong nodded.
“Mm, I am.
I know that you should have a rough diagnosis and results from additional testing are only to confirm this guess.
You can just tell me directly what’s wrong with her, Dr.
Tang Suoyan didn’t continue to feed him polite remarks, saying, “The preliminary diagnosis is suspected choroidal melanoma (a type of eye cancer).
I only looked at her fundus and CT.
The equipment here is insufficient to perform fundus photography and get a pathology report.
She’ll have to go to a bigger hospital.
If you know her, you should urge her to get an examination as soon as possible and receive treatment.
This cannot be delayed.”
As someone with a blind brother, Tao Xiaodong had talked with many from the Ophthalmology Department, and had a rough understanding of what type of disease this was.
His brows furrowed.
“If I’m not mistaken… they’re all malignant, right”
Tang Suoyan hummed in assent.
“It’s categorised as a malignant tumour.”
Tao Xiaodong was quiet for a moment, after which he asked, “Then, are you able to judge what stage it has progressed to, Dr.
Tang Suoyan shook his head.
“I can’t, I’ll have to look at the pathology report before I can determine the specific stage.
But based on her CT scan and current visual function, it isn’t in the early-stage nor late-stage.
She has high intraocular pressure and symptoms of glaucoma.
She needs to do an examination as soon as possible, get her condition checked, and determine the treatment plan.”
Tao Xiaodong’s brows were still furrowed.
The nomadic life of Sang Bu’s family was unconducive to her continuing to receive treatment.
When he had dropped by earlier on, Sang Bu was still telling him that he enjoyed this lifestyle, having lived this way from young to the present.
However, Mei Duo’s eyes required treatment; it would only worsen if they put it off.
“Can she be treated over this side” Tao Xiaodong asked.
San Hospital has a general branch located in Lhasa.
The head of department of the Oncology Department, Consultant Xue, has been over here for the past two years.” Tang Suoyan told him, “Tibet also has quite a few tertiary hospitals now; the health services they provide don’t lose out to the provincial hospitals elsewhere.”
Tao Xiaodong nodded.
There was nothing for him to say in the present.
Fate loved playing its tricks on people, and everyone had their own destiny.
After chatting for a while, Tang Suoyan asked him how he was related to that patient, but Tao Xiaodong didn’t know how to define their relationship.
They had only met once.
It was pushing it to say that they knew each other.
But in Tao Xiaodong’s recollection, the young woman’s eyes were crystal clear, awash in brightness from the snow-capped mountains and pasture lands here.
He recounted what happened that year to Tang Suoyan, explaining how they met.
After that, he said, “I want to help them, but in truth, I can’t do anything.”
Tao Xiaodong was quiet, then laughed self-deprecatingly a moment later, shaking his head.
Tang Suoyan gazed at him and spoke after a pause.
“Don’t say that.”
Tao Xiaodong’s brows raised slightly.
He looked over.
Tang Suoyan said, “After the examination findings are out, have the hospital find me for remote collaboration.
If there’s a need to do surgery to preserve the vision and protect the eyeball, I can take a business trip as well.”
Tao Xiaodong was slightly startled.
“You might not be able to do anything, but I can.
Your feelings of wanting to do what you can are precious; don’t just ignore them.” Tang Suoyan looked at Tao Xiaodong and smiled.
“You’ve already done a lot.
Although this is the first time the two of us are on the same mission trip, I’ve heard plenty.
Our identities and positions are different.
As doctors, treating the sick and saving people is our professional obligation.
So, your desire to help is all the more worth cherishing.”
Truth be told, Tang Suoyan was naturally cold in appearance.
The contours of his face were powerful and firm, causing him to appear aloof to others.
However, at this time, his faint smile suddenly made him seem less cold, and even his features were considerably more gentle.
Tao Xiaodong looked at him, feeling quite complicated for a split second.
He had never been too used to hearing others praise him, and it unsettled him to receive compliments unrelated to tattooing.
Now, Tao Xiaodong was feeling very out of sorts.
But at the same time, Tang Suoyan said that he could do something to help, and this moved Tao Xiaodong.
“Suddenly I don’t know what to say.” Tao Xiaodong winked, then laughed.
“You’re making me blush.”
Tang Suoyan didn’t go on, simply drinking his tea with a smile.
Tao Xiaodong drank his tea as well, and after they finished their tea, they continued to top it up with water.
This tea session was way too shoddy; it was quite unceremonious.
Tang Suoyan sighed softly.
They exchanged a knowing look, both rather humoured, but left it unsaid anyway.