Across China: With free artificial limb, man farewells "shoe partner"

2021-12-03 11:35:40 GMT2021-12-03 19:35:40(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Xinhua writers Liu Zhoupeng, Liu Xinyong, Jin Yiqing

LHASA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Phuntsok Tsering, 32, used to have a wild idea: "How wonderful it would be if I could buy just one shoe at half the price!"

He just needed the right one.

Hailing from a village in Lhasa, the capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, he lost his left foot in a traffic accident in 2000.

Phuntsok often wished to find someone who happened to need his brand-new left shoes until he met Ngawang Tendar about two years ago.

They met at a wheelchair basketball game organized by a mutual friend. Ngawang Tendar, 35, had been a doctor in Lhasa for seven years. He lost his whole right leg at the age of 8 due to an accident.

Soon they became friends and "shoe partners" as their shoes are the same size.

"After that, whenever we bought new shoes, we would share them," Phuntsok said, adding that the first sharing was a pair of sneakers since they both love sports.

Phuntsok used to wear something invented by his father with an old shoe and a piece of tire stitched together. It did not look good, and the left leg was still shorter than the other even though he wore the make-do.

"I'd always dreamed I could walk as I did before the accident," he said. However, a local prosthetics producer disappointed him every time he inquired.

This March, things turned in his favor.

A friend told Phuntsok he could try applying for a free tailor-made artificial limb, as the region earmarks funds to this end every year.

"I felt lucky finding a 'shoe partner,' and I am now even happier to get my prosthetics for free," he said.

Phuntsok clearly remembers first seeing his artificial limb in a workshop. After checking it out closely, he put it on in ecstasy, then he took out a new left shoe and put it on for the first time in two decades.

In confident, solid steps, the man walked back and forth in the workshop, grinning at and thanking everyone along his way.

"He is much more positive than before. He got married to his girlfriend over a month ago, bought a car, and has started a new happy life," said Jorlek, one of Phuntsok's friends.

In 2021, Tibet spent 12.96 million yuan (about 2 million U.S. dollars) in rehabilitation services for the disabled, providing assistive devices for 2,900 people, said the regional disabled persons' federation.

"Now, we can offer basic assistive devices to the disabled free of charge to meet their basic needs," said Champa Pedron, in charge of assistive devices at Tibet's rehabilitation service center for the disabled.

Ngawang Tendar received his prosthetic limb for free, but it was uncomfortable due to the high amputation position. He still uses a crutch, as a more advanced prosthetics is far too expensive for him.

Champa Pedron said more advanced assistive devices would gradually be introduced for the disabled in Tibet.

"I hope my shoe partner will get rid of his crutch and embrace a new life as soon as possible," Phuntsok said. Enditem