When Neil Greening lost his leg in a motorcycle accident in 1982 it not only changed his life, it also changed the lives of hundreds of Australians.
- There are more than 20,000 amputees living in Australia
- Neil Greening lost his leg in a motorcycle accident in 1982
- Since making his first prosthetic leg for $93, he runs a business manufacturing bespoke prosthetics
After the accident, he turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with his deteriorating mental health. He also struggled to find a prosthetic leg that was comfortable and worked correctly.
"It was impossible to find something comfortable. Everything looked like a relic from the second world war," Mr Greening said.
"The industry hadn't moved forward at all. It was just terrible."
The diesel mechanic decided to make his own prosthetic after watching the Sydney 2000 Paralympics.
"I saw the running blades on TV and thought, how hard can it be to make?
"I made my first leg for $93 and it took me three days, and it gave me the opportunity to be able to run for the first time.
"I thought if I could spend more than $93, I could make better quality artificial limbs and hopefully improve people's quality of life."
That first artificial leg eventually led to Mr Greening opening a bespoke prosthetic service in Cairns.
"I needed a leg," he said.
"I really needed a leg that could outperform all the other legs on the market.
"I just needed a leg that could get me through a full day, so I made my own."
According to the Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association, there are more than 20,000 amputees living in Australia.
Designing for comfort and fit
Mr Greening says the whole purpose of his business is comfort.
"When I first started with a prosthetic, I was only comfortable three to four hours a day, now I can stand on it all day and all night," he said.
"We now use an adjustable socket, so when your stump swells it can be loosened and when the stump shrinks it can be tightened.
"Before it was a fixed socket and you would have to put woollen socks on to change the fit, and wool is not great up here in the tropics."
Many of Mr Greening's diesel customers want a tour of the prosthetic factory, which sits beside his workshop.
"When my diesel clients come in and ask for a look around, they can't believe it when they see carbon machines, 3D printers and scanners," he said.
"We can also custom print designs onto the leg.
"I've got the inside of a motorbike printed on mine, other people have asked for their favourite football team, pictures of their kids or a piece of artwork."
Mr Greening says the biggest improvement in prosthetics has been microprocessors. With the flick of a switch, his foot can detect whether he is going up or down a hill and the angle of the hill.
"The foot actually walks for me — the foot moves to the angle of the hill," he said.
"Before, your leg would have to stay straight on a hill, and you had to hobble.
"The computer can change the angle of your foot to suit the terrain. I'm now a bionic man."