The man who made his own leg

Juvénal Baganito is possibly the only person in the world who can say he’s manufactured his own leg.

On a January afternoon in 2011, when Juvénal was wrapping up his high school years, a truck crashed into his car, killing his brother instantly and plunging Juvénal into a deep coma. When he woke up two weeks later, he learned his left leg was gone. He told me he dropped out of school and that it took him several years to make peace with the fact that he was now “un amputé” – as if being disabled was now unmistakably part of his identity. It wasn’t until he received his first prosthetic, a rigid device made of wood, that he felt alive again. He then realized there was nothing wrong with his mind.

I look forward to writing about Juvénal in my story about the Association Nationale de Rééducation et d’Appareillage de Centrafrique (ANRAC), a workshop in central Bangui that also operates as a rehabilitation center for the disabled. Here, people slowly learn how to walk again under the supervision of a patient physiotherapist. In an adjacent room, Juvénal molds, saws and hammers artificial limbs, which he hopes will be as life-changing for other amputees as his first prosthetic was for him.

Saskia Houttuin, CAR Reporting Fellow