There is nothing in the world like the unconditional love of a mother.
For Zou Hongyan it was no different when her son was born disabled. But she was crushed when doctors cruelly told her that Ding Ding, her precious baby boy, was “not worth saving”.
But Zou Hongyan refused to give up on her newborn. Now 30 years later he has defied all odds.
Ding Ding, who was born with cerebral palsy, went on to gain admission into Harvard University.
Mr Ding, 29, has given all praise to his determined and passionate mom.
But things could have been dramatically different for Ding Ding. In 1988, he was born in Hubei province, China and nearly suffocated during a birth complication.
Doctors warned his mother that he would grow up either disabled or with low intelligence and was “not worth saving.”
Ding’s mother was left even more heartbroken when her husband sided with the doctors. “Let’s not have this child. He will be a burden to us all our lives,” he said.
Ms Zou insisted on raising their baby, and soon the couple divorced.
Now faced as a single parent she needed to support her son. Ms Zou took up a full-time position at a college in Wuhan, and also worked part-time as a protocol trainer and insurance salesman.
Whenever she was not hard at work, Ms Zou took her son to rehabilitation sessions.
She educated herself on how to massage her baby son’s stiff muscles and would play educational games with him.
Ms Zou knew the harsh realities of the world and insisted that her son be as independent as possible. Growing up in a traditional Chinese home, Ms Zou forced her son to use chopsticks without any assistance.
“I didn’t want him to be ashamed about his physical disability,” Ms Zou said. “Because he is less skilled than others in many areas, my expectations of him are higher, so as to get him to work harder.”
Her persistence paid off, as Mr Ding graduated with a degree in environmental science from Peking University’s school of engineering in 2011.
That same year, he enrolled in a second degree programme at the university’s international law school.
In 2016, after working for two years, Mr Ding was accepted into Harvard Law School.
“I never dared to dream of applying to Harvard. It was my mother who never stopped encouraging me to give it a try. Whenever I had any doubts, she would guide me forward,” Mr Ding said in an interview.
He describes his mother as his “spiritual mentor.”
Although Harvard awarded Mr Ding with a scholarship covering 75 per cent of his school fees, his mom worked tirelessly to pay the rest.
“At 29, I am still dependent on my mother. I hope I will soon become more successful and self-reliant, so she can have a better life,” he said.