Tue, Jan 08, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Paralyzed man’s balloons, wheelchair repairs inspire

By Yang Mien-chieh and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Cheng Yao-yao sits in a wheelchair next to his handmade children’s balloons in Taipei on Dec. 29.

Photo: Yang Mien-chieh, Taipei Times

After a traffic accident left him paralyzed, Cheng Yao-yao (鄭耀堯), 43, found purpose in his life by making balloons for children and repairing the wheelchairs of others like him.

Eight years ago, Cheng’s motorcycle was rear-ended in an accident that injured his spinal cord and left him in a wheelchair, he said.

He was a mechanic at the time, but the accident drained his savings, and shattered his hopes of buying a house and opening his own repair shop, he said.

He thought his life was over, Cheng said, adding that he felt that the friends, relatives and social workers who visited him in hospital did not understand his pain.

His marriage was also being tested, he said, adding that it was only the smile of his young daughter that encouraged him to pull himself together.

At a friend’s suggestion, he began learning how to twist balloons at the Potential Development Center for Spinal Cord Sufferers in Taoyuan, applying his auto repair skills to balloon-twisting.

Using stickers and markers, Cheng within minutes creates balloons featuring cartoon characters such as Shimajiro Shimano, Spider-Man and Hello Kitty.

Apart from setting up booths in the city center, Cheng also works at weddings, school fairs and kindergartens.

“The smiles on people’s faces when they receive their balloons puts me in a good mood all day,” he said.

Although he earns less than he used to as a car mechanic, he is just grateful to have a source of income, he said, adding that after his injury he learned to cherish even more the time he gets to spend with his family.

Cheng, who serves as a director of the New Taipei City Association of Spinal Cord Injury, travels to schools to promote road safety and to hospitals to visit patients.

He plans on using his experience with wheelchairs to learn how to repair them, as his wheelchair is his legs, he said.

When it breaks down, it is difficult to go anywhere, he said, and he understands being in that situation.

He has also asked other wheelchair users to help with his business, he said.

“It would give them a job and allow them to feel useful,” he added.

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