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Fang Bo, a former sARs sufferer in Beijing, thought he had left the epidemic behind for good. But when he began to feel serious pain in his legs in late 2003, the diagnosis plunged him back into misery: Fang now suffers from osteonecrosis of the femoral head (OnFH), a long-term sARs complication that causes impairments in bones and joints.

“Hormone therapies were overused during the sARs epidemic, especially in Beijing, the most seriously affected city. After all, at that time, hormones were the most effective drug in the fight to se lives,” explained a report on state broadcaster CCTV.

Due to these hormone overdoses, over 300 sARs sufferers in Beijing he now been diagnosed with sARs complications, usually a combination of OnFH and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPH), a lung-related disease that causes respiratory failure.

However, the after-effects of sARs infection can be so debilitating that, for some survivors, they can destroy the will to live –according to media reports, many sufferers he attempted suicide. “It is called ‘long-life cancer’ in the medical circle. OnFH, though not fatal, is incurable and can eventually cripple or even paralyze patients,” Chen Weiheng, an OnFH doctor at Beijing Wangjing Hospital, explained to the media. “[Patients] he to use drugs for the rest of their lives.”

The resulting unemployment and high medical costs he driven many sufferers into clinical depression, another typical complication of sARs. A survey targeting over 100 sufferers showed that nearly 75 percent were found to be suffering from depression. They tend to shut themselves off from the outside world, and many lee their families.

In 2005, the Chinese government included these sARs complications in the list of ailments that qualify for free treatment, and in 2008 began to grant allowances to certain sufferers, but this is far from a long-term solution to the problem. “[The media and government] all said that they would not forget us, but who will take care of us when we are lying in bed, helpless and hopeless?” asked Fang Bo.

Fang Bo, 61

Seven of Fang’s family members were infected with SARS in 2003, and the disease took the lives of his wife and sister-in-law. Despite being made a propaganda hero of the fight against SARS by the media at the time, Fang has been suffering from ONFH since late 2003. After he had a prosthetic hip fitted, he found the pain was tranerred to his shoulders and knees. In despair at his diminishing ability to support himself, Fang has developed a fiery temper – he once struck himself in the head with a beer bottle. Fang’s two daughters both divorced because of SARS, and one remarried far away from home. He now lives alone, concentrating all his efforts on petitioning for a government-funded assistance system.

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