India's $40 limb puts amputees back on their feet

Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:44pm EST
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By Rituparna Bhowmik

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - When Bhoopnarayan Jha lost his leg in an accident, the government employee also lost his will to live, until he got a "Jaipur Foot."

Made from locally available and cheap materials, the rapid-fit, prosthetic limb is handed over for free to victims of road and rail accidents or land mine blasts, giving them, and thousands of others who can ill-afford a major injury or the costs of rehabilitation, a new lease on life.

The Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti organization, which makes the prosthetic, is based in the western desert state of Rajasthan and the foot is named after state capital Jaipur.

"I told my doctor, just kill me. Every time I saw my bandaged stump, I did not want to live," said 48-year-old Jha, who used to cycle 20 km (about 12 miles) to work every day.

"But I was up on my feet in an hour after strapping on the foot and in one month's time I could run and catch a bus."

The foot piece is made from rubber, the variety used in car tires, and is available in standard shoe sizes.

The core of the foot is made from a cheap local variety of wood that is used for packing cases. The light, water-proof socket that cradles the stump is made from a high density polyethylene, the component of common water tanks.

"It costs us around 1,750 rupees ($38) to make a Jaipur Foot for below-knee amputees and about 2,200 rupees ($48) for those that have had amputations above the knee," says V R Mehta, one of the directors of the Samiti organization.   Continued...