xi's moments

Ill boy finds happiness talking with online fans

By LIU MINGTAI/WANG XIAOYU | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-30 07:15

"Little Pebble" and his father go online. [MA XIAOMA/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Interactions with netizens on the short-video app Kuaishou have helped a 5-year-old boy with chronic kidney disease in Changchun, Jilin province, fight loneliness and regain his smile.

In a clip posted on Wednesday, the boy, known as Xiaoshitou or "Little Pebble" to his 980,000 followers, is seen reading at home, holding a pencil and saying that it was his time to study.

He was diagnosed at 14 months old with nephrotic syndrome, a condition that damages the kidneys and wears down the immune system, according to Chu Bin, 38, the boy's father. "He doesn't understand the disease, but he knows that he goes to the hospital very often and takes a large number of pills," Chu said.

"He also can't enroll in kindergarten and play with his peers for fear of infection," Chu added.

Before going online, Xiaoshitou occupied himself at home with toys and a mobile phone. "We noticed that he barely smiled and hid when strangers-showed up," Chu said.

The boy began taking videos of himself and, with his parents' help, uploading some to Kuaishou in 2017. Netizens' greetings and encouragement flowed.

Xiaoshitou, who stands only 1 meter tall, has seen his weight balloon to nearly 35 kilograms from hormone treatments. His figure and casual chitchats with netizens have become popular on the short-video app.

"At the beginning, we tried to persuade him not to record and share videos because it seems inappropriate for his age," Chu said. "But seeing that Xiaoshitou quite enjoyed himself and gradually became more extroverted, we decided to work on the videos together."

Chu now livestreams together with his son and helps write captions for videos that feature Xiaoshitou having meals, exercising, studying and traveling.

Chu said it costs about 8,000 yuan ($1,150) a month for the boy's medical treatment. The family covers the cost with revenue from Chu's e-commerce venture, selling dried dates and instant hot pot kits, and his wife's income working for a property management company.

Donations from netizens also are helping. Kuaishou users have been sending gifts to Xiaoshitou's account, which can be exchanged for currency, while the app also pays cash rewards to high-traffic account holders-which the boy is now-for every view, like and comment.

While some netizens have accused Chu of using his son to make money, he said he chooses to disregard those comments as long as Xiaoshitou can gain happiness from filming short videos.

"Xiaoshitou's disease is hard to cure and he needs plenty of rest, to take medications and do follow-up checks regularly," said Han Yunkun, deputy director of the nephrology department at Children's Hospital of Changchun.

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