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After days in rubble, quake survivor gives birth

/ Source: The Associated Press

In the 50 hours she was trapped under rubble after last month's earthquake, mother-to-be Zhang Xiaoyan prayed hardest not for her own life but for her baby's survival.

On Wednesday, she got her wish, giving birth to a healthy, pink-cheeked 7.3-pound girl at the Urumqi Maternal Care Hospital in her home region of Xinjiang in China's far west.

Zhang's dramatic rescue was a rare bright spot after the May 12 earthquake centered in Sichuan province killed almost 70,000 people and left 5 million homeless.

The image of rescue workers pulling the eight-month pregnant Zhang onto a stretcher two days after the quake, her stomach protruding from under a blue sweater and pink pants, was played on TV screens and newspapers across the country.

"Even if I didn't make it, I just wanted my baby to survive. I was holding out hope during the earthquake that this day would come," Zhang, 35, said Wednesday as she reclined in a hospital bed with her daughter swaddled in a pink floral blanket beside her.

She leaned over to kiss the baby she has named Ai, or love, in honor of the rescue workers and strangers who have showered her with kindness, gifts and VIP treatment in the month since she was pulled out of the debris.

The rescue of Zhang, along with her 63-year-old mother, from the collapsed ruins of a seven-story apartment building in Dujiangyan set off celebrations among the rescuers. The two had been trapped in about 18 feet  of concrete slabs and other debris.

'Miracle of life'
Sun Guoli, the fire chief of Chengdu who was overseeing the operation, called it "a miracle of life, using one's life to save a life." Watchers burst into cheers and applause when Zhang was finally pulled out and taken away in an ambulance.

A celebrity since she was taken to the hospital, Zhang said she was grateful for all the care and attention she has received from the medical staff, who banded together to donate new sets of clothes and presents for her and the baby.

Zhang said she plans to stay in Xinjiang with her mother until living conditions improve in Sichuan. She had moved there after high school in Xinjiang, and met her husband there.

Her husband, Pan Yuncheng, a native of Sichuan, remains in Dujiangyan where he is living in a refugee camp.

The couple talked to each other briefly by telephone Wednesday during an interview set up by a local radio station.

"I want to thank all the people that were helpful. It was very moving," he said, as his daughter gave out a loud yell over the phone.