By Rev. Norman Fong

October 16, 2017

My chest was hurting really bad and I could barely walk… I think the year was 1959 when I was a student at Jean Parker Elementary School. We didn’t have cell phones back then and I didn’t know how to contact my parents who were always working so hard. I told my teacher my chest hurt so much and I was crying… They told me to go to Chinese Hospital. I think I was in the third grade then.

Somehow, I made it to Chinese Hospital clutching my chest and walking alone. I was actually so scared to go to the hospital because of the stories I had heard as a kid… the lights were dim and there were supposed to be “Ghosts” in there… but I had to go because it was so painful. I remember meeting with the Chinese hospital doctor who was really nice and kept calling me “Young Man” (even though I was just a little kid). After some testing, I think I had to do an x-ray too… I remember the doctor saying “You’re a walking case of pneumonia!” (which I couldn’t spell, of course, but it was severe). The doctor gave me a shot and some pills to take… and psychologically I felt instantly better when he said you are going to be OK. Looking back, what I remember most was I didn’t have to pay anything. I didn’t have to fill out any forms or call my parents. It was totally free! The doctor really cared about me.

Chinese hospital took care of me for free! Nowadays, medical help costs a lot! It’s scary to think about how people in Chinatown are scared to go to the hospital or even ride an ambulance because of health care costs. And worst, the Trump administration keeps trying to take away health care benefits (i.e. Obamacare).

Chinese Hospital

I still believe though that Chinatown cares and jumps in to help people in need (once in a while). I remember meeting with a mom who lived in a Chinatown SRO who came to Chinatown CDC to ask for medical & housing help for her son (who was in the hospital). This was more than 10 years ago. The son needed a new heart but in the meantime had to use a heart machine to keep him alive! It turns out that the electricity in an SRO Building is Not stable enough to keep the machine going at a steady rate. What could we do? The son needed a “heart Donor” and good housing with stable electricity. Wow! It seemed like an impossible task! We talked with the heart donor program and they said we could raise money and collect donations so the mom & family could fly to Los Angeles to get a heart transplant if they find a donor. Secondly, we had to find new affordable housing so that he could live a healthier life.

Rev. Norman Fong and elderly fire victim of the Pacific and Stockton fire.

To keep the story short: THE COMMUNITY stepped up and made a lot of donations to help send the boy and family to LA and it was a miracle because a heart donor was found! Next, we worked with the city to get him a new apartment in the Mission district! (This is one of those “Miracle Stories” that movies are made from)… I was so impressed with the caring of the community to help this “young man” survive!

Every now and then, I am so proud of our community that shows it’s loving care every now and then. Recently, there was a fire at 801 Pacific & Stockton and once again, the community pulled itself together to raise funds to help all the fire victims.

In Chinatown & in the news, you hear a lot about the problems we face and the lack of unity at times that hurt us. I just wanted to share some examples of how Chinatown is caring & generous too!

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on October 15, 2017

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