In the early hours of April 14, 2012, Zheng Yanliang cut off his right leg. Racked by pain from arterial thrombosis, but unable to pay for the surgical amputation he needed, the corn farmer severed his limb with a hacksaw and a fruit knife. It took 20 minutes to grind through the bone.
Much is astonishing about Zheng’s ordeal — not least that he survived. Zheng, then 46, had been suffering from excruciating leg pain, when a doctor at a local clinic diagnosed him and explained that blood was barely getting to his lower limbs. The right leg would need to be removed.
Zheng and his wife traveled from their dusty village of Dongzang, in China’s eastern Hebei province, to a public hospital in Beijing. There, they were told to produce about $48,000 in cash as a deposit. Zheng made about $400 in a good month, so he went home. Months passed. Maggots infested his dying limb. By the time he put sawtooth to skin, he says, the pain was so dreadful that he was happy to see his leg gone.
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