Across China: Armless man lends "iron hand" to people in need

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-03 20:19:13|Editor: Li Xia
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CHANGCHUN, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Hearing loud popping or crackling noises from a workshop, residents in a small village in northeast China's Jilin Province can tell when "Iron Man" starts working.

"Iron Man" Sun Jifa is a 65-year-old farmer in Yongji County in the city of Jilin. What makes him different is his self-made iron forearms, which enable the armless man to use a mobile phone, play chess, saw timber, and even drive a tractor.

Sun lost his forearms in an explosion when he was developing a fishing device in 1980. He could not afford to buy a prosthesis. His wife and mother had to help him put on clothes, brush his teeth, eat and even go to the bathroom after the accident.

"I felt like the sky had fallen. I just wanted to die. But my wife was pregnant, and my forthcoming baby gave me the hope and courage to live on," Sun said ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities which falls on Monday this year.

He decided to fabricate a pair of forearms by himself.

Sun guided his brother to nail a spoon to a piece of rubber and wrapped the simple device around his broken arm. It enabled him to eat by himself. Then he started fabricating more complicated arms using iron, plastic, and rubber.

However, he was not content with the prosthetic device which only made it look like he had both his arms. As a farmer, he needed a functional device that would allow him to do manual labor jobs.

Sun set up a workshop to develop and manufacture prosthetic arms in 2007. Vigorously studying mechanics and engineering, he assembled a device with rubber fingers. Controlled by the movements of the shoulders and upper arms, his device can enable him to grip, hold and mimic some easy movements.

Developed throughout more than 30 years, now his fifth generation, Sun's steel prosthetic forearm weighs around 0.75 kg each and costs between 4,000 yuan (about 580 U.S. dollars) and 6,000 yuan, around one-fourth of the average price in the market.

"He often stays in the workshop for a whole day, addicted to developing new functions for the arms. He is quite fussy," said Qi Yunfei, Sun's apprentice.

Sun's invention was awarded a national patent last year. So far, up to 900 people in need of arms came to him for help.

"My father always told us not to make profits from people with disabilities. Most of them do manual labor jobs and don't have much money," Sun's daughter Xiaoxue said.

To help more people who have encountered similar tragedies, Sun built a two-story building, offering free accommodation for those who come to install prosthetic arms.

His story has made him a local celebrity. In 2016, the Disabled Persons' Federation in Jilin gave him around 30,000 yuan to purchase more manufacturing equipment for the workshop.

"He is the real 'Iron Man' in my heart," Sun's grandson said while pointing to the prosthetic devices developed by his grandfather at the workshop.