After five years without legs, Qian loses basketball ... and walks

SHE has spent the last five years getting around on a basketball after losing her legs in a car accident.

But now Qian Hongyan is learning to walk again after doctors in China fitted her with a set of prosthetic legs.

The eight-year-old has taken her first tentative steps on her new limbs which doctors hope will transform the life of the little girl whose plight became apparent earlier this year.

This week she came home from the rehabilitation centre where she has been learning to walk again.

She was able to walk down the steps from the aircraft with the help of her father after arriving at Kunming International airport.

Her new legs are fitted to a prosthetic abdomen onto which Qian's torso is fixed.

The device allows her to stand up and she is able to walk and propel herself along with a pair of crutches.

It is a huge advance on the primitive, but ingenious, device upon which she has relied for the last five years.

Her family hopes it will allow her to lead as normal a life as possible.

The Chinese youngster's family was too poor to afford the sophisticated medical assistance that could have helped her to walk again when she lost her legs in a horrific accident in 2000 when she was just three years old.

But in an inspired move Qian's parents came up with the idea of sitting her on a basketball, which, with the aid of a couple of brushes that double as low-level crutches, enabled her to move herself by bouncing around.

She became highly mobile on her unconventional transporter and was able to travel independently between her home and the local school.

After years propelling herself along the ground, the youngster has been given the chance to walk again after she was taken under the wing of doctors who have fitted her with prosthetic legs.

The girl, who lives with her family in Qujing City in China's south-western Yunnan Province, had both her legs and part of her lower torso amputated following the accident.

Five years and six basketballs later, Qian came to the attention of the China Rehabilitation Centre in southern Beijing.

Doctors there vowed to have her up and walking within six months.

In fact in less than three months the youngster is already mobile on her new limbs and was judged ready to return home to her family.

She will even be returning to school soon.

In an interview earlier this year, Qian's teacher, Zi Hong-ying, recalled that the little girl was very shy when she first attended school.

She had to rely on teachers and friends to carry her around and take her to the bathroom.

"After all those years on a basketball, her bottom has got blistered and swollen," she said.

Charitable donations helped raise the 5,600 cost of her treatment, allowing doctors to construct and fit the prosthetics and offer her the physiotherapy that has allowed her to walk.

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