IN perhaps the most desperate display of Chinese ingenuity yet, a 43-year-old man has been kept alive for 13 years by a home-made kidney dialysis machine.
Hu Songwen was studying to be a meteorologist in Nanjing when he was diagnosed with renal failure in 1993.
For six years, he paid a visit every few days to his local hospital to have his blood cleansed by dialysis. But each visit cost him £50 and the years of treatment exhausted his family's savings.
In 1999, he decided to build his own machine using kitchen equipment, medical parts and a textbook.
"As long as you have a high school degree, understand the principle of dialysis, follow the operational instructions and keep a close watch during the process, nothing should go wrong," he said to the Southern Weekly newspaper.
The paper cited research from 2008 suggesting that the high cost of dialysis means only ten per cent of Chinese requiring treatment can afford it regularly.
Mr Hu said his largest expense had been an outlay of £500 for his blood pump after he failed to make his own version and that each treatment now only costs him £6 in chemicals and replacement filters. He lives at home and his 81-year-old mother helps him with the treatment.
"The most important part of the machine is the filter, and I can use each one eight times. A new filter costs £10, while a proper medical machine can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds".
He became famous after posting a video of his machine on the Chinese internet after he learned that a new medical insurance scheme would cover his kidney disease.
Under the new regulations, Mr Hu will be able to receive proper treatment for roughly the same cost as his homemade machine, but he said the nearest hospital was relatively distant.
"When I told the doctors what I was doing, they said I was crazy," he added.
Malcolm Moore Telegraph.co.uk