This Paralyzed Father Did the Impossible With a Pile of Trash to Feed His Family

February 3rd 2016

Taylor Bell

No matter where you come from, most people understand the sacred bond between a family. Familial ties are often so strong, members will do whatever it takes to support the household. A striking example of such dedication was recently reported in Indonesia, where a father built a bionic arm out of trash in order to provide enough food for his wife and children to eat, according to the BBC.

Like a scene out of a science fiction movie, 31-year-old I Wayan Sumardana created a robotic arm out of scrap metal as a substitute for his left arm which one day stopped functioning.

I Wayan Sumardana

Six months ago in the small village of Nyuhtebel, Sumardana woke up to find that he had lost all feeling in his left arm. Although he knew something was wrong, doctors could not pinpoint a diagnosis.

"At first, I thought it was a light stroke, but my doctor couldn't explain what was happening," Sumardana told the BBC. "He said go to the shaman, but the shamans gave up too."

I Wayan Sumardana

Sumardana's paralysis left him in a state of great economic uncertainty.

I Wayan Sumardana

"One day, my son came home from school crying because he didn't have money to buy snacks," Sumardana said. "I asked my wife and she couldn't buy rice either. I was confused. How can I work again to earn money?"

That's when Sumardana got the innovative idea to build a robotic arm put out of scrap metal, lithium ion batteries, gear wheels and other electronics. Although he didn't receive a formal degree, Sumardana did learn technical engineering in high school and is a welder by trade. Before he lost his feeling in his arm, he also spent time as a repairman fixing different electronics such as fans, refrigerators and televisions.

So how does it work exactly?

I Wayan Sumardana

Sumardana's explanation combines science with some spirituality. "I think of something that I want the device to do and my brain sends a signal to this device. I use the signal. I give it power, so it is amplified...For those who don't believe me, please come to my welding workshop. That's the way my device works. Actually, it is very simple. It is not sophisticated."

I Wayan Sumardana

But Sumardana is not without his skeptics, especially those in the mechanical engineering field.

"When I met him the machine was broken. So I asked him how it works," Wayan Widiada, a mechanical engineering expert from Udayana University in Bali, explained to the BBC. "It's a robot structure but there are some important components missing. He has a mechanical and electrical structure, but it doesn't have any computer coding. How can the machine recognize a command without computer programming?"

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Sumardana added that it's not only about science; he is not himself and becomes slightly possessed when he puts it on. The Balinese have a deep tradition in spirits and mysticism, and his wife revealed that she believed spirits played a role in the circumstances.

But whether or not people believe him or not, Sumardana hopes that his invention can inspire people.

I Wayan Sumardana

You can view Sumardana's full story here. 

h/t BBC