"Our treatment room is filled with the unceasing cries of children with cerebral palsy: the cries of young children fearful of treatment; the frustrated cries of children worn out by their inability to control the movement of their bodies. Exhausted from their efforts to loosen their stiff joints and muscles, unable to bear the physical strain, they cry out for their mothers.
Today, we hear the piercing cry from our 9-year old patient, Il-Song — “I am not ready to give up. I need to get better so I can show my father the improvements when I return home. I will not go!”
Il-Song cries in desperation to his mother whose eyes are glazed from defeat. The two of them had left their hometown over two years ago in order to fully invest in Il-Song’s long-term treatment in Pyongyang. Overcome with doubt and frustration over the slow progress of Il-Song’s condition, his mother is contemplating whether to go back home or to keep fighting for restoration. The tears welling up in her eyes over this predicament turn to thick droplets and she weeps over Il-Song’s proclamation.
June, 2013: We can never forget the first day we met Il-Song. At six years old, Il-Song had traveled far from the northern region of North Korea after hearing about the launch of Pyongyang Medical School’s cerebral palsy treatment. When he first stepped foot into our treatment room, he struggled to lift himself and stand on his own strength.
Two and a half years later, he is able to stand on his own and even walk.
Il-Song has gotten almost unrecognizably bigger and taller over the past two and a half years. Just as much as he has physically grown, his dreams have grown as well. Whenever we ask Il-Song what his dream is, he replies enthusiastically, “Teacher. I want to become a diplomat and travel all around the world!”
Today, for the sake of his seemingly impossible dream, Il-Song continues to diligently undergo difficult physical therapy for small hand gestures and special education to overcome his visual impairments. While receiving individualized treatment for his conditions, Il-Song discovered his gifting in language and music. He was overjoyed over his newfound talents.
It is difficult to treat children suffering from behavioral pediatric disabilities with just medicine or surgery. These children need long-term, holistic rehabilitation to help them grow and become participating members of society.
In our small treatment room today, we see Il-Song’s mother secretly wiping away her tears, and we, like Il-Song, have an impossible dream we want to achieve. We want the program that starts in the Pyongyang Spine Rehabilitation Center to go into every neighborhood in North Korea and wipe the tears of others like Il-Song and his mother. "
— Dr. Stephen Yoon