WHEN faced with a tough decision concerning his health, Jackson Natu from Vanuatu did not hesitate to amputate his leg.
The 36-year-old father made the decision back in 1999 after living with a shrivelled left leg ever since he was diagnosed with leprosy as a young boy in 1984.
The Amba villager from Banama Province in Vanuatu says the decision was not a hard one because he loathes walking with the aid of crutches.
The crutches came into use after leprosy ate into his left leg and he was living a tough life growing up as a young man in his province in northern Vanuatu.
Jackson says he usually finds it hard walking with crutches, he feels inhibits him until he heard about prosthetic legs.
There and then he made up his mind to walk with artificial legs rather than relying on crutches.
"When I initially asked the health authorities to amputate my leg, they asked me to reconsider my decision and to come back after a month," he said.
The health authorities in Vanuatu and the Pacific Leprosy Foundation thought he would have a change of heart but Jackson was still adamant.
There were others who were also against the idea but he still believed that a prosthetic leg would give him a new lease of life.
"A month later, I still hadn't changed my mind and that is when they finally agreed to have my leg amputated," the 36-year-old said.
And that year was the first time he came to Fiji because he had to have his leg amputated at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva.
"This is my fourth trip to Fiji and I would like to thank the government here for providing a cheaper service for my prosthetic leg. It used to cost a lot before but now it is cheaper to get a new leg fitted or have an old one repaired," Jackson says.
He says it used to cost around $900 for a new prosthetic leg but today, it's roughly $90.
Jackson is the first international or Pacific Islander who has benefited from the new prosthetic scheme at the Tamavua Hospital Rehabilitation Unit where patients pay only up to 2 per cent of the original cost.
They can have their measurements taken and walk away with their new limbs in just four hours.
This means other amputees living with leprosy in other Pacific Island countries can access this service at a reduced price.
"The amount of work put in by people towards the care of those living with leprosy in Fiji and in my country, Vanuatu is so good.
"It is something that I must thank the Pacific Leprosy Foundation for and also the governments of the two countries."
However after a few trips to Fiji, Jackson moved on with life and is now a mechanic after attending several courses, which of course was sponsored by the Pacific Leprosy Foundation.
"I now live in the same province in which the capital of Vanuatu, Port Vila, is situated and have started doing mechanical work at various communities along the coast," Jackson says.
He started his business in 2006 and has since married and gone on to become a proud father to a three-year-old child.
Jackson didn't put his life on hold after amputating his leg.
Instead, the blessings that followed like a stable job and a loving family, he says are the reasons why he has never regretted the decision to go under the knife in the first place.