47-year-old Jerry Lerio lives life like any other individual. Selling his peddled goods out of a wooden cart that makes its way through the busy streets of Manila, one would expect that his normal day-to-day life isn’t that eventful; at least until one finds out that he’s actually an amputee.
Lerio is a graduate of Marine Transportation from the University of Cebu. He was originally slated to become a seaman but the motorcycle accident that occurred in 1995 while he was waiting for the final call from his commanding officer changed the course of his life.
Due to the financial expenses he’d incurred from needing to have the lower part of his left leg amputated, he’d had a falling-out with the relatives who’d come to his aid. “After the accident happened, the opportunity that was waiting for me was gone. Instead of fulfilling my long-time wish of becoming a seaman, I’d become a vendor instead,” he shares.
But instead of letting his disability get the better of him, he chose to make the most of what he still had.
His initial encounter with the Tzu Chi Foundation came in the form of volunteer Frances Lim. Lim regularly attends mass at the St. Jude Thaddeus Parish and she have been observing Lerio him for three weeks prior to their first conversation.
“What drew my attention to him (Jerry) is the fact that out of the eight beggars that were located in front of the St. Jude Thaddeus Parish, he was the only one who was working. When I approached him and asked him why he chose to work, he said that he’d rather choose to make himself useful despite the fact that he was an amputee,” volunteer Lim shares.
Of course, the initial meeting wasn’t without concern—Jerry himself had admitted his reservations about the conversations he’d shared with volunteer Lim. Even his fellow beggars had voiced their concerns about the meetings, but these notions would be put to rest on the morning of March 20 when he was personally accompanied by volunteer Lim to Tzu Chi Foundation’s main office in Quezon City to ask for a new artificial leg.
The leg was the only thing he was willing to accept from Tzu Chi. Initially, volunteer Lim offered him a sack of rice, a new bed, cash so he can rent a place, and other forms of aid but he turned all of these down, preferring to work instead.
On March 22, Tzu Chi volunteers accompanied Jerry Lerio to the Philippine General Hospital’s Integrated Biomechanical Laboratory for a consultation and fitting of a new prosthetic leg. While he has had a previous prosthetic leg that he had acquired from the Philippine Orthopedic Center in the year 2010, time and frequent usage have worn down the leg to the point that whenever he would use it for extended periods of time outside, it becomes unstable. It can also be a cause of accident if taken through rough travelling conditions.
Without money to buy a new one, he resorted to making temporary fixes to his old prosthetic leg.
On the morning of April 4, Jerry received his long-time wish. He was accompanied by Tzu Chi volunteers on the return trip to the Integrated Biomechanical Laboratory for the fitting of his brand-new prosthetic leg; which he immediately tested in the hallway.
“I want to extend my gratitude for my new prosthetic leg. To Master Cheng Yen and Tzu Chi volunteer Frances Lim, thank you very much for fulfilling my humble request,” he says, upon returning to the Bukang Liwaway home for the physically disabled in Arlegui, Quiapo.
From Tzu Chi volunteer Lim, Jerry heard about Tzu Chi’s practice of saving coins for charity in a coin bank. In gratitude, he has also adopted a Tzu Chi coin bank.
“I tell myself whenever I drop coins into the coin bank, ‘this small amount will be a big help to others who are in need of help’,” he adds. Even though the income he makes is just enough for his living expenses, he readily makes it a habit to donate what excess he can spare.
Meanwhile, volunteer Lim has nothing but praise for Jerry’s contentment and simple nature in life.
“When I found out that despite his condition he still takes time to help others, such as feeding the children who live around their area, his story inspired and humbled me. Even though he has every excuse to ask for help, he prefers to live his life on his own terms and even helps out others. I can compare his story to this Jing Si aphorism, ‘Do not underestimate yourself because everyone has boundless potential’,” Lim says.
“Even if I continued to offer him different kinds of assistance, I readily noticed that he is already contented and very much fulfilled with what he has in life. Overall we are very inspired and fulfilled by helping Jerry Lerio,” volunteer Lim ends.
On March 20, Jerry makes the journey from the Bukang Liwayway home for the physically disabled to the Jing Si (Still Thoughts) Hall in Quezon City on his wheelchair.【Photo by Erin Uy】
Despite his disability, Jerry can navigate the streets of the Metro Manila area while on a wheelchair, and can even navigate the same wheelchair up an inclined path.【Photo by Erin Uy】
Here, a Tzu Chi social worker interviews Jerry and writes down the information needed in order to be able to process his request, and to have a file record on him as well readily available should the need arise.【Photo by Erin Uy】
At the Integrated Biomechanical Laboratory in the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Tzu Chi volunteers discuss the method of how the prosthetic leg casting and fitting process will take place.【Photo by Erin Uy】
Jerry Lerio takes a seat while staff members take measurements and prepare for the casting of his prosthetic leg. Precise measurements have to be taken so that the prosthetic leg will fit him, and him alone.【Photo by Erin Uy】
Before heading back home, Jerry Lerio is assisted by a Tzu Chi volunteer to navigate down the stairs from where the Integrated Biomechanical Laboratory is located.【Photo by Erin Uy】
Tzu Chi volunteers take a few moments and talk with Jerry about the process for his prosthetic leg casting, as well as how long the waiting time would be until they make the return trip to the PGH again for the actual prosthetic leg fitting.【Photo by Erin Uy】
On April 4, Jerry makes the trip back to the PGH for the fitting of his new prosthetic left leg.【Photo by Erin Uy】
Additional adjustments are made so that the prosthetic leg fits comfortably on Jerry Lerio, and he will not have any difficulties walking.【Photo by Erin Uy】
After adjustments are made, Jerry takes his new prosthetic left leg out for a test run outside the Integrated Biomechanical Laboratory by walking up and down the corridor.【Photo by Erin Uy】
Tzu Chi volunteer Frances Lim helps Jerry down from a vehicle as he is taken back to the Bukang Liwayway home for the physically disabled in Arlegui, Quiapo.【Photo by Erin Uy】
Jerry takes a few moments to compare his old and new prosthetic leg side-by-side. He has had the first prosthetic leg since the year 2010, and the signs of wear and tear show due to heavy use.【Photo by Erin Uy】