|Gift: Sheikh Jeng wearing the prosthetic leg which was donated by Karl Ives (left).|
Sheikh, 20, on the left picture lost his legs to a tropical disease when he was just 11. In Gambia prosthetic limbs – which cost at least £350 – are scarce. His family feared he faced a lifetime of being shunned by a society which sees disability as a curse.
Every year for a decade Sheikh – who plays wheelchair basketball – has returned to hospital to see if they have any legs suitable for him. After 10 years in a wheelchair, the ground suddenly seems a long way down. Finally that day has come.
Holding on to a rail, a look of grim determination on his face, Sheikh Jeng takes his first steps in a decade. And the legs beneath him are made not of flesh and bone but of steel and fibreglass – donated by a fellow amputee thousands of miles away in the UK. As the trainee teacher, who lives in Gambia, tentatively makes his way forward, the scale of his achievement dawns on him.
He said: “I have hoped every day for 10 years that I would walk again. Having these legs is completely life-changing. I’m the happiest man in Africa.”
|'Sending off' party: The van full of donated prosthetic legs sets off to Africa.|
His right leg was donated by Karl Ives. Karl lost his leg at the age of four after being electrocuted while playing near a railway line. He is now an engineer for a prosthetics company in Hampshire and appears as an extra in films and TV.
He said: “We’ve got the NHS. You need a limb, you get a limb. Over there they’re lucky to have crutches or a home-made trolley.”
Karl, 44, has been through 40 prosthetic legs. The dad of five is now working with volunteers at charity Legs4Africa to stop these discarded limbs from ending up on the scrapheap and get them sent to Africa.
|Alex Brooker from Arsenal, North London, donated his old artificial leg to |
Gambia, where it was received by Usman Bah, 60.
The prosthetics workshop at the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul, Gambia, is a far cry from Karl’s state-of-the-art Prosthetic Regional Rehabilitation Department in Portsmouth, but it’s enough to turn these second-hand limbs into life-changers.
The charitable organisation, funded entirely through online donations, has collected old limbs from around the country. Among its cargo of 500 legs was one donated by TV’s Alex Brooker. The Last Leg sports presenter had his right leg amputated below the knee as a baby.
His leg has gone to 60-year-old Usman Bah. The former tourist guide lost his right leg to diabetes eight years ago. Since then, every day has been filled with pain and humiliation.
“I dreamed of the day I could run and walk with my head held high. Thanks to Alex Brooker, that day is finally here.”
Legs4Africa was set up by Tom Williams, 28, after a trip to Gambia in October 2012
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