What seemed to be a case of online backlash against perceived heartlessness turned into a story of a woman who is remarkably dedicated to her bedridden husband.
Cui Fangli, 46, was lambasted online when she shared a video on social media of herself dancing happily beside her husband, Fang Jianhui, who lost his ability to function, including eating and excreting, after a stroke in 2019, according to a report in Qianjiang Evening News.
People said Cui was being "heartless", and one user even asked if she was "trying to kill [Fang] by making him angry so you can find a new husband?"
As the real story emerged, it became clear that Cui has essentially dedicated her life to keeping Fang alive.
She said her daily routine includes helping Fang exercise to prevent muscle degeneration, feeding him with food paste through a catheter and removing his mucus every two hours to keep his airways clear.
Cui said she dances as a way to ease pressure and stress.
"I'm a positive person. No matter how hard life is, I don't complain. I keep laughing," she was quoted as saying. "I used to dance with villagers in the square, but after my husband fell ill, I cannot go anywhere, so I dance at home sometimes," she said.
"I only meant to share our routine about fighting illness. It never occurred to me that it would trigger criticism. But, from another perspective, this has made me famous and there is nothing wrong with that," she said.
Fang spent two months in a vegetative state after he was admitted to the hospital with a weak heartbeat, where doctors said he had a brain haemorrhage. Now he can communicate with simple finger movements, said Cui.
After the stroke, doctors said he would be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, but Cui refused to give up and insisted on looking after him "even if he would remain vegetative".
Many online users were touched by her love, courage and optimism. "It is rare today for a wife to remain by her husband's side for three years after her husband was paralysed," one user wrote on Weibo.
On Tuesday, she received a 10,000 yuan (S$2,121) prize from an Alibaba campaign to promote positivity. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.