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Meet the man that gave a baby elephant a new leg

Therdchai Jivacate was born in 1941. He graduated from the Faculty of Medicine of Chulalongkorn University in 1965. In 1972 he was a resident of physical medicine and rehabilitation in Northwestern University and in 1975 he specialized in orthopedic surgery at Chiang Mai University. This orthopedic surgeon and inventor is known for his humanitarian activities in providing prosthetic limbs to impoverished amputees. One of his first technological discoveries was manufacturing artificial legs from recycled plastic yoghurt bottles. He used his own funds to simplify and adapt the process and designed artificial legs specifically for farmers working in wet fields.

In 1992 Jivacate founded the Prostheses Foundation under royal sponsorship from the Princess Mother Srinagarindra that has expanded beyond the borders of Thailand into Malasia, Laos and Burma. He also established Thailand’s first and only educational institution of occupational therapy at Chiang Mai University. Other accomplishments include creating an educational program for children suffering from chronic diseases at Maharaj Hospital in Nakhon Ratchasima. With further support from private donors, the royal family and the Thai national lottery fund, the Prostheses Foundation manufactured legs for over 15,000 people, free of charge! Jivacate observed that amputees living in the remote borderlands of Thailand were less likely to be able to obtain proper prosthetic limbs and opened field clinics and mobile workshops with specialized personnel and volunteers. Each clinic runs for six days and between 150 and 300 people receive limbs.  Some of the temporary clinics have now become permanent.

In 1993 Jivacate was voted best rural doctor by the National Medical Association of Thailand, In 2008 he was given the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service and in In 1994, the National Research Council of Thailand awarded him the third prize for the most useful medical invention.

In 2009 Jivacate used a modified version of the Centre for Rehabilitation casting system to fabricate a prosthetic leg for Baby Mosha, a female elephant who lost her leg after stepping on a landmine in 2006 when she was only 7 months old. The process was featured in a documentary called The Eyes of Thailand directed by Windy Borman.

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