FEATURE: Double amputee wins praise as ‘model father’

By Peng Chien-li and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 - Page 5

A construction worker in Miaoli County who lost both his arms in an accident has shown that it is possible to overcome any hurdle after raising three children as a single father.

Fan Chin-hsing (范進興), 67, has earned the respect of people in his neighborhood in the county’s Zaociao Township (造橋), who praise him for being a “model father.”

When he was younger, Fan worked for a building contractor installing mesh and steel bars (rebar) to reinforce concrete.

Thirty-two years ago, he was at work when he suffered the accident that cost him his arms and nearly killed him. Fan said that it was drizzling that day as he was working on tying rebar.

Although he was 1m away from a high-voltage cable, Fan said the magnetic force pulled the steel rebar he was holding toward the cable.

“Suddenly, there was an explosion and I felt like my entire body was engulfed in a fireball,” he said.

When Fan woke up, he was in a hospital bed, with four intravenous lines feeding into his body.

Zaociao Township Mayor Huang Chun-te (黃純德) was at the site when the accident occurred and remembered seeing Fan lying unconscious on the steel rebar frame.

“His clothing was burned to cinders, his skin was blackened, his hands were black and twisted, and a hole was burning through one of his feet. I lifted him up, carried him to my car and rushed to the hospital,” Huang said.

Fan begged the doctors treating him to save his hands because his livelihood depended on them. During six months of treatment and recovery, he underwent a dozen surgeries, but the tissue in his hands could not be saved. Eventually, his forearms and hands had to be amputated.

Upon returning home, he was dealt another blow when his wife told him she was leaving because she could not take care of him in the state he was in. She took NT$300,000 that they had saved up and some valuable jewelry, but left their three kids — all less than 10 years old — with Fan.

Fan said he was so devastated, he considered ending his life. Fortunately, one of his neighbors talked him out of it.

The father of three then got arm prostheses and began the painstaking process of learning how to use the limbs to do essential tasks like eating and writing.

“In the beginning, it was painfully slow. Every stroke of the pen was difficult. When I tried to eat, I used to drop the bowl, scattering my food all over the floor,” he said. “But I held back the tears of frustration and told myself that: ‘I must be strong for my kids and go on with my life.’”

Since he was unemployed, he rented the first floor of his house to an animal feed business, which provided him NT$2,000 a month. Despite this, and the government’s Disability Living Allowance, Fan and his children lived on less than NT$7,000 a month.

As his children grew up, the family’s living expenses started piling up.

Fan said he always put his kids’ needs first, at times eating just one bowl of instant noodles a day so they could have food and clothing.

Their situation finally improved when the first floor tenant gave Fan control of the feed business, giving him a more substantial income.

Huang said that since saving Fan’s life all those years ago, he had seen Fan overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

“Despite the hardships he faced, Fan single-handedly raised three children, who now have jobs and families of their own. Life has not been easy for Fan, but he persevered and I deeply admire him,” Huang said.