“There were thousands and thousands of political exiles who had been forced to leave their countries in history. But political exiles like her, an 83-year-old woman in poor health, frail and fragile, weeping bitter tears all the way to a distant land, were rare. Maybe, she was the eldest of all exiles in the world.
Professor Gao Yaojie, an octogenarian, has always been referred to as “China’s First Anti-AIDS Crusader” and is highly revered by the world. The memoir comprises two parts—Part I (The Gao Family and the Days before My Retirement) and Part II (Caught in the Storm of AIDS after My Retirement). In Part I, she guides the reader through different stages of her life: her childhood, her stay in Kaifeng during wartime, her student life in exile, her hospital life as a gynecologist, those days during the Cultural Revolution when she was subjected to humiliation at denunciation meetings… Tried by adversity, she simply got going when the going got tough. Such a portrayal of her life is suitably deemed a chapter in the contemporary history of China.
In Part II, she provides an overview of the AIDS epidemic in China with meticulous care: how she waged war against bogus doctors, how she met her first AIDS patient, how she made significant discoveries about the primary cause of the disaster, namely that people had fallen victim to plasma economy during the plasmapheresis campaign of China in which blood plasma were extracted in exchange for money, how she was harassed, kept under surveillance, and placed under house arrest, how she was forbidden to attend presentation ceremonies in overseas countries, and how she found out that the people around her had been spied on, or had been incited to sell her down the river. New chapters of her life in exile after her arrival in the United States at the age of 83, her will, etc., are also included.
“I had never for one moment imagined that I could become a heroine. I could have lived a quiet, uneventful, private life after I retired twenty years ago. I could have retreated from public life, and could have kept to myself, like thousands and thousands of senior citizens, if I did not go to see my very first AIDS patient, who sent me away on a journey of no return.
Was I destined to find my calling as a doctor? Was I destined to be a health care provider? Was I destined to grow up in a family where I was given a Confucian education? Was I destined to go soft on people who were in pain? And was I destined to tear my hair out when I encountered the unscrupulous and the evil?”