While on assignment for National Geographic at a children’s hospital in Zambia I saw David Miti, a man without legs, sitting on a bench making crutches. The poetry of the moment hit me and I asked if he would share his story. Miti built a career as a truck driver and a carpenter. Then, at age 34, his life changed forever.
“The day started with a fever,” Miti recalls. “I went to a hospital and got medicine, but after I went home I discovered a blister on my left leg. Then after some hours there was another blister on the other leg. Then my legs turned black.”
Mr. Miti was diagnosed with gangrene, a condition in which body tissue dies due to a lack of blood supply. To save Miti’s life, doctors had to amputate both legs.
“It pained me” says Miti. “I nearly committed suicide. I thought that my life had ended.”
But it hadn’t. Instead, Miti found an opportunity to leverage his disability by giving back to those in similar positions. Miti began working for the Zambian Association for Children with Disabilities, where he uses his carpentry skills to build devices for disabled children. (See how new artificial limbs are controlled by thoughts.)
Today, Miti wakes up around 6 a.m. and makes an hour-long commute to work by wheelchair. He spends the day making crutches, standing frames for children with cerebral palsy, and braces for those with clubfoot.
“When I see children the way I am, I feel touched that I can help them,” says Miti. “That is why I am still here. To help them so that they don’t feel depressed [and] they don’t feel bad the way they are.” (Watch this amputee skier shred expectations.)
As a filmmaker, I am drawn to individuals who face the hardships of life with strength, dignity, and grace, showcasing the resilience that resides in each human soul. From a distance, it can be easy to view David Miti as a helpless victim. But he is not. Miti is a strong, independent individual who turned his disability into a calling to serve others. His double amputation did not cripple him. It fueled him. And through his carpentry work, it freed others.