For Thai orthopedic surgeon and 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Therdchai Jivacate, saving the lives of countless diabetic patients and landmine and accident victims through amputation was not enough. Seeing amputees, particularly from poor villages in northern Thailand, struggle with ineffective and unsafe improvised limbs, he was determined to find better, safer, and more comfortable alternatives. He studied prosthetics making, tirelessly experimenting with durable yet cheap materials, including even recycled plastic water bottles!

Photo courtesy of www.thestar.com.my
Photo courtesy of www.thestar.com.my

He set up a small prosthetics factory and distributed its output to his patients for free; his customized artificial limbs include a “farmer’s foot” suitable for work in paddy fields, a leg that can be used with flip-flops, and other user-friendly prosthetics appropriate for the needs of the rural poor. Hearing about his project, the Princess Mother offered her patronage for the establishment of the Prosthesis Foundation, enabling him to expand his mission. Creating mobile prosthetic workshops, Therdchai organizes teams of doctors, technicians, and volunteers to serve amputees in far-flung areas, where patients are assessed and fitted with artificial limbs onsite. In these mobile workshops, which have gone as far as neighboring Malaysia, Laos, and Myanmar, trained amputees are among Dr. Jivacate’s prosthetics technicians.