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"It was said that I was an executioner who had brought harm to the Poor and Lower-Middle Peasants."

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  • Interviewer: How old were you when the Cultural Revolution started in 1966?
  • I was 32.
  • Interviewer: Where were you at that time?
  • I was in Xining city, Qinghai [Province].
  • I worked at Qinghai Medical College Affiliated Hospital, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
  • Interviewer: Do you have any impressions of the Cultural Revolution?
  • Yes. During the Cultural Revolution, in 1968, I attended to a mother who had just delivered her fourth child.
  • The child had already been born, but after delivery, the woman was losing a lot of blood.
  • So, I went to call on her.
  • When I was going there, I realized the transportation [conditions] were awful.
  • The road was uneven and riddled with potholes; cars would bounce around like crazy.
  • I was afraid it would be unsafe to take the woman back to the hospital over these kinds of roads.
  • This was my greatest mistake, and all the impact I received from the Cultural Revolution later on stemmed from this decision.
  • It was said that I was an executioner who had brought harm to the poor and lower-middle peasants.
  • I was given an armband [to wear as a punishment].
  • This incident happened during the Cultural Revolution, so I found myself caught up in the heart of things.
  • I was a doctor, so I should be responsible for the life of the people, but at that moment I'd made a mistake.
  • Later, that woman was taken to the hospital by her family.
  • By the time she got there, there was already no chance of saving her.
  • That's when I made my mistake.
  • Later, the leadership handled things by reducing my wages by two levels.
  • At that time, the wages were already quite low, and we never got a raise; [having my wages reduced] was a deep blow to me.
  • I just had to tolerate it. What could I do? What happened, happened.
  • That woman was brought into the hospital, but it was already too late. In the end, she died.
  • I constantly felt heartsick over what had happened.
  • This was one of my most bitter experiences.
  • More than six months after I was demoted, the higher-ups did some research, and found a local doctor to look into things.
  • [They realized] the road really was full of potholes; it was in the process of being fixed, and any car would've found it difficult to travel across.
  • They rehabilitated [my case], and reinstated my wages.
  • Originally, after I was demoted, I was made to clean toilets and bathrooms.
  • My medical worked was put on hold for a time.
  • In the end, my wages were reinstated and I didn't have to do janitorial work anymore.
  • I've been working as a doctor ever since, up until today.
  • Later my reputation was completely reinstated.
  • I've always been heartbroken over what happened.
  • I went to the pasturelands two more times, to work for a traveling medical clinic.
  • When I was on the pasturelands, I discovered, Qinghai’s altitude is really high; [the area] is high and cold.
  • It’s the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau; for every 100 meters above sea level, the temperature falls three degrees [Celsius].
  • So under these circumstances, I spent six months in Maduo County.
  • I was also in Yushu [Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture] in Qumalai County for more than three months.
  • Later, I was injured when I fell off a yak I was riding.
  • My head had a huge knot on it; my eyes turned black like a panda's.
  • I was sent back to the hospital for treatment and rest.
  • So I returned to the hospital. After that, the hospital sent me to Shanghai for a period of rest.
  • I went back to my family's home to rest; everything had been reinstated [by that time].
  • Still, I feel this incident had a huge impact on me.
  • It was a way the Cultural Revolution impacted me, and the impact was quite large.
  • On the pasturelands, I saw that the Tibetan compatriots were extremely hospitable, honest, and sincere.
  • They had a lot of respect for us Han Chinese doctors.
  • One time, I went to deliver a baby. The infant was choking on the amniotic fluid.
  • I put my mouth to its mouth, and sucked out the liquid.
  • I never knew my heart could be as happy as it was when I heard that baby cry.
  • Another time, there was a woman of about 60 years old who had uterine fibroids.
  • It was a rather unusual case, since the fibroids had already grown to the outside of the vaginal opening.
  • They were like child's shoes, 10 or more centimeters long, and four or five centimeters wide.
  • It was that kind of tumor.
  • The tent smelled horrible.
  • The neighboring tents were all set up far away from her, since [the neighbors] thought there was sickness in this tent, and the smell itself was enough to kill you anyway.
  • I went there, opened the window of the clinic [tent], and did surgery on her.
  • To be honest, my surgery was rather conservative.
  • I didn't remove the entire uterus, since I didn't have the supplies I needed.
  • There wasn't enough blood, and there was no way to transfuse it.
  • I tried to think of a simple method, a way to cut the tumor out, and stitch her back up, then her case would be finished.
  • Everyone was thinking, this doctor must be good, since so many other doctors [had seen the patient and] couldn't do anything, because they weren't specialists in obstetrics and gynecology.
  • But I was, so I took on this case.
  • The entire surgery was successful, and the people really thanked me.
  • Later, they asked me what I would like. I said I didn't want anything.
  • Later, when they were shearing sheep, [they said], "Which sheep’s wool do you like best? We'll sell it to you for just a little money."
  • I said okay; I could take the wool home to make a blanket.
  • I bought about five kilograms of it, all for a very low price of about 1 yuan for half a kilo.
  • At that time, it was already during the Cultural Revolution, so…
  • Anyway, I paid the money, didn't steal from anyone or embezzle anything.
  • Later, I found a way to take that wool back to Shanghai, and had it made into a blanket.
  • We still use it at home.
  • It's better than any wool blanket you'd get in a store today, better than a down [blanket]. It's real wool.
  • After that, my prestige was pretty great in Qumalai County and Maduo County.
  • People would say, this Dr. Gu is great; she's saved the lives of our Tibetan infants and sick Tibetans.
  • They felt [the woman's] illness was really grave, but honestly speaking, it was not that serious.
  • In a large hospital, this type of illness would count as minor.
  • But if you wanted to do surgery on uterine tumors, you had to prepare well ahead of time.
  • I didn't have an assistant, either, so I just did a conservative surgery on her.
  • Later, I left the Tibetan region. Half a century has already passed.
  • I left Qinghai almost 30 years ago, but these few incidents have left a really deep impression on my mind.
  • I believe the Tibetan compatriots are a national minority of the motherland.
  • They are so sincere and friendly.
  • No matter when you go there, they will hurry to offer you milk tea to drink, kill a sheep, and make some mutton and rice stew for you to eat.
  • [The meat] wasn’t tender and we weren’t used to it, but it was impossible for them to make it more tender [due to the high altitude].
  • So, we were in this kind of environment…On the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, this high-altitude location.
  • Qumalai County's elevation is 4,500 meters, but at that time I was only about 30 years old, still quite young, so I didn't get hypoxia.
  • Everyone worked hard to help us do our medical work properly.
  • They helped us leave a good impression when we paid house calls.
  • Everyone was hard-working; doctors and nurses; external and internal surgeons; pediatricians; obstetricians and gynecologists; anesthesiologists – we were well-equipped.
  • We overcame the influence of the climate of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.
  • We also ate highland barley noodles, stir-fried, and drank their milk tea. We made yogurt ourselves.
  • Everyone put forth an effort in our lifestyle and our work.
  • So in this way, we left a good impression on our Tibetan compatriots.