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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

This blog is a record of events in the life of Joseph Taggart and his family since his spinal cord injury while body surfing in Guatemala in January 2006.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saying Goodbye

Updates have been slow because of the blog being blocked in Qingdao and Beijing. Now we are in Hong Kong we are trying to catch up. Here is Joseph's last entry for Qingdao:

Tuesday, June 10
After returning from our time in Qingdao with the wheelchair accessible van loaned to us by the Mayor, Matthew and I were transferred to the ninth floor. This is both a good and a bad thing. It was bad in the sense that it made us both realize just how much junk we had accumulated over the previous six weeks. However, it gave us an early start on our packing in preparation for our departure from the hospital on Sunday. The room upstairs is a little bit smaller, but the view is a little bit better -- so overall I guess we cannot complain.

Packing is going to be a real problem. When we first left Salt Lake City, all of our bags were exactly at the weight limits, except the last one, which was about 12 pounds over. Luckily Delta didn't seem to mind too much, I'm not sure if we're going to have the same luck with China Eastern, Air China, or the other airlines we will be flying on over the next two weeks. We decided to go ahead and packed one of our suitcases already with just the souvenirs we have purchased. That way one bag would already be packed and out-of-the-way. Unfortunately after packing my smaller suitcase full of just souvenirs, it looks like it's already going to be overweight and there's still plenty of space left inside. Sigh... now we can only hope that the airline gods have mercy on us again.

Wednesday, June 11
Today was my final stem cell transplant. Everything went just fine. Even spending six hours in bed seemed to go buy more quickly than usual. Probably because I knew it was the last time I would have to stay laid out that long. I feel good knowing that I have had the eight transplants now, and I'm starting to get excited for the physical therapy coming over the next six months or so. I've been planning out in my mind my daily physical therapy routines for when I return home. It will be nice not having to worry about school for the first few months, so I can concentrate singly on physical therapy.

Members of the staff who will not be working this weekend have already started coming to say their goodbyes. We planned ahead and brought plenty of coffee table books (of photos of Utah), Mormon Tabernacle choir CDs, and other goodies to give away as gifts to our friends here in Qingdao. We were also able to share a couple of copies of our special book.

Since arriving here we have had many interesting discussions about the meaning of life, and God's plan for us all. As a missionary serving in Brazil I spent most of my time teaching Mormonism, here we mostly answered questions about who God and Jesus Christ are, and why they are so important. We noticed that a few of the staff members already have Bibles, and they seem to be the ones most prepared for these types of discussions. It's exciting to explain to someone for the first time that we have a Father in Heaven, that He loves us, and wants us to return to Him.

Thursday, June 12
On Thursday night, there was a potluck dinner put on by the international patients at the hospital. Matthew and I have been at the hospital longer than any other patient, so we kind of felt like the veterans. It was fun spending time with all the new patients that have arrived, it seems like almost half of them arrived in the last 10 days or so. In the afternoons we spend a lot of time taking them to cool little shops we have found, or showing them where to go or how to get around.

It amazes me how many of them are afraid to try the food here. I have absolutely loved the food. About an hour before lunch, and an hour before dinnertime, the translators go around the hospital and taking people's orders. They have a whole book of menus of take-out food. Chinese, Korean, and Western food is available. I could probably count on one hand the number of time Matthew or I have ordered Western food. We mostly ordered Chinese food. We both have grown quite fond of the steamed rice. Here they come to a little bit longer than we do in the states, so it all sticks together in little clumps. We call it sticky rice. Some of our favorite dishes are the sweet and sour chicken, pork stirfry, spicy vegetable stirfry, spicy beef strips with peppers, and many many more. It's also interesting to note that authentic Chinese food is completely different than American Chinese food. It's hard to really explain the difference, it just is. I think real Chinese food is much better!

Friday, June 13
Friday was our last day of physical therapy. I know that I'm going to be going without it for the next week or so while I'm traveling through Beijing and Hong Kong, I think I'm going to miss it. I especially have enjoyed the acupuncture. Even though nine times out of 10 I sleep through it, it just makes me feel really good afterwards. Especially when we hook up the electric wires to the needles on my arms and legs. I posted the video on my face book profile of my finger bouncing up and down as electricity entered my body through the needles. It's pretty cool.

Friday night we all went clubbing with the staff one last time. It was pretty cool. I think leaving our friends behind is going to be the hardest part of leading Qingdao. We have really grown close to many of them, I wish we could take a few of them home with us.

Saturday, June 14
Today we had nothing planned on our schedule. We spent most of the day saying goodbyes to people, making sure everyone got the gifts we brought for them, and finishing to pack. It's been amazing to see how much stuff we have accumulated over the past six weeks. We filled one entire suitcase just for souvenirs. We also had to pack a car battery size wheelchair charger. Our good friend David who returned home to Florida earlier this week, was kind enough to leave his wheelchair charger with us. It's a special charger that works in European and Asian outlets. If you remember from one of our first blog entries, when we first plugged in my wheelchair charger from the states it caught fire (even though we had used a converter with it). By lending us his wheelchair charger, it will allow me to charge my chair during our stay in Beijing, Hong Kong and the rest of the way home. Thanks David!

Saturday afternoon we presented the staff with a gift to decorate the nursing station. It is a peach wood carving (peach wood is symbolic in Chinese culture of long life and happiness). The two main Chinese characters on the figure represent luck, long life, and success. Along the base and gold lettering is a message in Chinese reading "Thank You, you have brought great honor to the hospital and China!" And along the base in the back is Matthew and I's Chinese names my Chinese name is Zhou Lie Fu, which means of roughly "bringing luck and success". Matthew Chinese name is Yang Guang Nan Hai, which means "sunshine boy". The nurses gave us both our Chinese names, we like them very much.

Saturday night we were invited to go for a final dinner in our friend's apartment a few blocks away. I wasn't able to go because it is on the second floor and there is no elevator, but Matthew was able to go for a while. This time one of the other patients who went along clicked for the staff, instead of them for us. I think everyone greatly appreciated the gesture.

Sunday, June 15
Cliff, a hospital driver came to pick us up at about nine o'clock to go to the airport. Quite a few members of staff came in to say goodbye to us one last time before we left (on Sundays usually there's only one or two nurses on duty, and no therapists etc.). It was really hard to say goodbye. I'm thankful that things like e-mail and Skype exist that will allow us to stay in contact. I hope that someday I will be able to return and see them again.

While we were saying our goodbyes over the past few days we were able to share a few special books and DVDs in Chinese. It's been a lot of fun to feel those feelings when sharing again. It's frustrating though, it's obvious that there are millions of Chinese people who are prepared to accept the Gospel into their lives, but it's just not allowed at this time. The day that China opens to Christianity will be huge! More than a few times people have approached us and asked about the purpose of life, what happens after we die, and why bad things happen. Everyone seems so thirsty for the truth.

At the Airport --
Regardless of where we are in the world, it seems like I'm the first person in an electric wheelchair ever to go through that airport. We sat at the front ticket counter for China Eastern Airlines for about an hour discussing what should be done. After speaking with countless gate agents, managers, security, and luggage handlers, everyone seemed to figure it out. It makes me extremely nervous every time I leave my wheelchair in the hands of someone else. For me, my wheelchair is an extension of my body. If it were to break, I would be broken too. A particularly big fear of mine is that my wheelchair would be broken throughout our stay in Beijing and Hong Kong. I really don't know what we would do. During all of the commotion of figuring out what to do with my massive 350 pound wheelchair, the gate agent failed to notice that every single one of our bags was overweight. I'm not kidding, every single one! Hopefully this kind of luck will continue the rest of our journey:)

Eventually we made it onto the airplane, and the vacation part of our journey began. . .

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Jun 21, 2008, 9:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm.... I see what you mean about spammers.
Anyway...I LOVE LOVE LOVE the name "Sunshine Boy." It fits you like a glove, Matt! I have a feeling that's a monikker that will stick for a long time. What a glorious and fitting ending to an adventure to remember for a lifetime. You guys are such an inspiration for being positive an upbeat.

--Maria

Jun 21, 2008, 3:21:00 PM  
Blogger Abby and Jason said...

Welcome home! I loved reading all your amazing experiences! I look forward to seeing you!

Jun 27, 2008, 3:56:00 PM  
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