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Chinese Farmer Builds his own Bionic Arms

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Published on May 24, 2013

A Chinese farmer who lost his hands in an accident turns misfortune into a family enterprise with home-made bionic arms that he now sells to other amputees.

Full story:

A Chinese farmer who lost both his hands in a freak accident has turned his misfortune into a family business by building his own pair of bionic arms.

Sun Jifa, from China's northern Jilin province, lost both his hands when a fishing explosive went off prematurely in his home nine years ago.

Unable to afford expensive prosthetic arms at local hospitals, Sun bought a low-grade pair which proved near-useless for routine farm work and caring for his wife and three daughters.

Eager to get his hands back, Sun spent the next eight years crafting his own steel bionic pair from scratch with little direction but his own intuition.

The results have changed his life.

[Sun Jifa, Creator of Bionic Arms]
"It transfers power from the natural movement of my elbow into the finger, allowing it to grab and hold. This is the left hand. For the other hand, rotating the two bones that I have left in this arm allows my right hand to open and close like this."

Sun's hands made him a practical celebrity in his hometown and earned him national media attention.

It wasn't long before other amputees began requesting pairs of their own.

Fellow farmer Li Yanzhong, who lost his own left hand years ago, came to Sun after he found the prosthetic replacement he bought was of little use.

[Li Yanzhong, Fellow Amputee and Customer]
"Mr. Sun's artificial hand feels good to me. When I go home, it will help me a lot with operating work machinery. Normal prosthetic arms only have a superficial function when operating machinery. They don't have much strength. But this artificial hand will be very useful in using machines and doing other work."

Sun said that he has already sold around one thousand steel limbs for about 3000 yuan ($490 USD) each, which he says is only a tenth the price of what most hospitals charge for higher-quality prosthetics.

Sun's hands aren't just able to handle the complexities of his farm labour and shop work - they can also perform routine tasks ranging from picking up a spoon to lighting a cigarette.

[Sun Jifa, Creator of Bionic Arms]
"By using these hands, I can help the family with chores. I can do some farm work, I'm not useless. I really feel a weight has lifted. I feel I'm not a freeloader. I can be useful."

Despite the big business, for Sun, now aged 53, perhaps the biggest benefit of his new hands is that they have brought back his confidence.

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