Martin Amaro is one of Mexico’s most famous one-legged men. He’s a popular figure around his home town of Acapulco, as he rides around the beach city on his motorbike.
He lost his lower leg seven years ago, when a cooking injury became infected. Doctors told him the only solution was amputation.
“I said ok, but when I woke up from the surgery and my leg was gone I couldn’t believe it,” he told CGTN. “I couldn’t look at it for weeks afterwards.”
“I thought that I’d never be able to do anything. That I’d spend the rest of my life in a chair. I felt that I had become useless.”
Martin and his prosthetic leg. /CGTN Photo
Martin was left without work for two years. He’s a plumber by trade and suffered the same fate as many other Mexicans who lose limbs – nearly 130,000 of them a year, according to the country’s health ministry.
Martin is from an impoverished region of Mexico, called Guerrero State. In marginalized areas like his home where manual labor is a common way to make a living, losing a limb can mean a loss of livelihood.
A conventional orthopedic prosthesis would have cost Martin over 13,000 U.S. dollars, and he didn’t have that kind of cash.
So he made his own, for just four dollars’ worth of materials.
“I made myself this. I’m a plumber, so I knew how to do it,” he said, showing off his rudimentary fake leg to the camera.
It’s a very basic structure. Six pieces of drainpipe of different sizes glued together with industrial sealant, with a little piece of wood on the bottom, attached with strings.
“I needed something that would let me stand, because I can’t work sitting down; so I got a drainpipe, a funnel, some two-inch pipe, and a T-joint for the foot. And I began to stand on it.”
However basic his fake leg, it allowed him to stand, and he was quickly back at work.
Martin soon became known around Acapulco and, through social media and national TV appearances, something of a celebrity across Mexico.
Martin is a plumber, and knew how to solve his issue cheaply. /CGTN Photo
Yet his innovation has orthopedic physicians raising their eyebrows, such as Dr. Flavio Salmeron, who laments that the country’s health system couldn’t do more.
“Given the lack of help on the part of the state, people are often forced to improvise,” he told CGTN from his Acapulco consultancy.
“But looking at the implant that he has made for himself, it’s hard to defend it from a medical standpoint, and in fact it may end up causing him more problems in the future.”
Or maybe not… Amid Martin’s newfound fame, admirers organized a donation drive, and the funds to fashion him a medically-approved prosthesis.
“It made me so happy,” said Martin. “I managed not to cry, but when they unpacked the box and I saw the prosthesis, I said, ‘it’s a real one, mine’s just a copy!'”
Martin has proven his ingenuity at problem-solving on a budget, and is now a sought-after handyman in his hometown, and says the loss of his leg, has ultimately turned into his professional gain.