Diane’s Story: One Fighter, Two Reclining Chairs, and an Infinite Source of Love

Greater Washington D.C.  |  April 30, 2022
Diane excitedly hugged the volunteers who came to visit her. Photo/Juliana Huang

Written by Juliana Huang
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Maggie Morgan

Diane Carter is one of the several residents under the long-term care of Tzu Chi. Since 2016, Tzu Chi volunteers have been keeping in touch with Diane, helping her meet her needs and offering a source of limitless compassion. In addition to Tzu Chi’s subsidy, volunteers took time to call Diane and check in, sometimes visiting her in Raleigh, North Carolina to deliver personal supplies. In April of 2022, a long-term care program was established to address Diane’s urgent financial situation. The volunteers offered solutions to help her pay rent and find furniture.

Singing Through the Storm: Diane’s Perseverance Through Pain

Medicine jars and Tzu Chi emergency relief application forms have been an indispensable part of Diane's life. Photo/Juliana Huang
Tzu Chi volunteers and long-term care resident Diane Carter (center) in Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo/Juliana Huang

Diane is a professional singer, and she used to travel the world performing. On the night of a gig, Diane had a heart attack; her life changed forever, in a matter of seconds. It soon became clear that in order to survive, a heart transplant was her only option. After months of waiting, Diane was fortunate enough to finally get the life-saving surgery. She had another shot at life, but the high operation’s price tag emptied her entire savings. Diane was left with nothing, and she had become someone in need of social support.

Since the heart transplant, she has had to visit the hospital for dialysis three days a week. In order to maintain her livelihood, Diane has no option but to perform at local restaurants, no matter how weak she is feeling that day. The beauty in the The broken reality is that when Diane sings, she can temporarily forget her pain. 

Audience members have no idea what the talented songstress deals with just moments after the show is over. Diane can’t afford car repairs, and her heater doesn’t work. She drives from gig to gig, on countless cold winter nights. When she returns home, she faces her illness once again, as pill jars spread across the table staring back at her. She is resilient. She is a survivor. But she needs our help.

Tzu Chi volunteers in Raleigh have been looking after Diane for six years. As the years have gone by, volunteers have built a relationship with Diane, and community members have lovingly joined in the effort. Through the compassion of others, Diane was able to receive a helping hand when she needed it most. The love of Tzu Chi and Diane’s community worked together like a relay team, passing the baton of aid from one person to the next. This warmth created an umbrella of light, shielding Diane from facing the darkness of the storm alone. We think of this selfless kindness as a sort of sunshine, one that can touch Diane’s heart and make her hopeful about her life, make her see the brightness that the future holds.

Team Diane: Volunteers Set Out to Lift Spirits

The volunteers finally moved the big reclining chair from the second floor to the door on the first floor, ready to load the car. Photo/Juliana Huang
Volunteer Calvin Kao (right) and resident Yixin Tan who donated the lounge chair. Photo/Juliana Huang

During their daily chats, the volunteers learned that Diane was teetering on the edge of homelessness. Tzu Chi threw out a lifeline to pull Diane out. In March, Diane’s landlord refused to renew her lease, so she made plans to share another two-bedroom apartment with a friend. However, soon after moving into the new home, Diane had to undergo surgery for kidney cancer, and her roommate moved out of state without warning. This put Diane in an extremely vulnerable situation. She faced the immediate dilemma of having to pay rent in full or be evicted, but she simply couldn’t afford to cover the cost alone.

It should have been a successful operation and a smooth transition to a new home. Diane should have been focused on recovery and maintaining her health. Instead, she entered into yet another debilitating crisis that she couldn’t handle by herself. Diane told volunteers, “Whenever I want to get out of a predicament, I don’t find an exit but an entrance to another predicament.” The problems were piling up, and they were beginning to suffocate her.

I thought I was out, please don't bring me down again.

Volunteer Chiu Yueh Hong learned of Diane’s emergency and immediately arranged a visit. Diane was lying on a reclining chair when he arrived. The operation had exhausted her. She said: “When I got home from the hospital, there was only a dining table and chairs from my friends. There was no other furniture. When I spoke, the house was so empty I could hear my own echo.” She went to rent a cloth sofa and a chaise longue to partially fill her now empty house. However, the trial was only for a week. After that, Diane’s living room would be bare once again.

Tzu Chi USA Raleigh Service Center set up a long-term care team dedicated to Diane. Volunteer Chiu Yueh Hong immediately applied for emergency assistance so she could meet the May deadline to fix the rent crisis. The group of volunteers noticed that the empty house was not conducive to Diane’s condition, so they got started on securing a reclining chair for her so that she could at least get some much-needed rest.

Making Connections: Community Members Give Back

Volunteer Stephan Chen and his mother Linda Wang worked together to move the reclining chair into the car. Photo/Juliana Huang

Volunteers spread the word about Diane’s needs, looking specifically for donated reclining chairs by posting in online groups. Before they knew it, they received an unexpected response: two kind people offered to donate their reclining chairs, and the volunteers were thrilled. The first donor was Yixin Tan from Raleigh. After she saw the post, she contacted volunteer Linda Wang, explaining that she had a reclining chair in very good condition at home. If it could help someone in need, she would be more than happy to let it go. 

Volunteers Chiu Yueh Hong, Linda Wang, Calvin Kao, and Juliana Huang immediately went to Yixin Tan’s house. The reclining chair was on the second floor and, due to its size, the team had a hefty task ahead of them. They worked together to lift and carry it over their shoulders. They carefully moved the reclining chair to the first floor, and then carried it into the SUV to deliver it to Diane’s house.

Diane opened the door and saw the giant chair on a cart. Her face was one of unbelievable shock, and she hugged the volunteers, still in disbelief. The team could feel how elated she was, and that the small gesture meant more than anything to her. The reclining chair Diane rented was due to expire the next day, so this donated chair was like a timely rain, renewing her hope after a drought of misfortune.

When Diane opened the door, she saw the big reclining chair on the cart, her face full of surprise. Photo/Juliana Huang
Peter Huang (right), who donated the second chair, and volunteer Chiu Yueh Hong. Photo/Juliana Huang

The second donors, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Huang, live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Volunteers Linda Wang and Stephan Chen went to their residence to pick up another reclining chair. Before leaving, Peter Huang asked the volunteers to convey his gratitude. He said: “We are glad to find someone in need before moving who would continue to use and take care of this recliner that has been with us for a while. So we want to thank Diane in particular.” Diane smiled brightly after hearing this and said that she would cherish the gift.

Being able to build a bridge of kindness between donors and the recipients filled the volunteers with warmth. The reciprocity that comes with a good deed is indescribable. Tzu Chi is honored to hold a space where humans can connect, where strangers become close friends, and where love flows like a river.

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