Using just a small butter knife, a metal saw and a back-scratcher wrapped in a small towel, Zheng Yanliang cut off most of his own right leg while at home sitting in bed.

The desperate story of a man with no money to pay for health care has gone viral on Chinese social media. Zheng, a 47-year old from Baoding, in China’s northern Hebei province, used the household items to cut off his leg to alleviate a strange ailment that he had been suffering from for an extended amount of time. Zheng could not afford appropriate hospital care and felt he was faced with no other option but to deal with it himself. Today, Chinese news source Netease is reporting that the mysterious painful ailment that once plagued his right leg has now found its way to the left. Now Zheng is appealing to the public, hoping the kindness of strangers will help him find a cure for this pain and provide him a prosthetic limb so he can walk, and work to support his wife and child.

Before his self-amputation, Zheng was a typical, hard-working Chinese man, working on his family-owned farm, and a well-known community member. In January of last year, Zheng felt the first pangs of pain in his abdomen, which  quickly spread to his leg. He managed to get some shots of painkillers for the splicing pain he was feeling, and was later taken to a hospital and eventually diagnosed with arterial thrombosis in both legs, the cause of which was unknown. After getting his legs examined, angiograms found that all the arteries in his right leg and the arteries below the knee in his left leg had deteriorated. Essentially, massive blood clots in both his legs were blocking blood flow.

Soon the pain became unbearable, and Zheng was no longer able to walk or even stand. Doctors told Zheng that his condition was extremely rare, and treatment would only make what they guessed would be his last month of life less uncomfortable. Three months later, Zheng was still alive, and still dealing with excruciating pain as well an emptied savings account.

Zheng’s inability to walk, and the fact that ulceration had begun to spread, gave him the idea to amputate. After the village doctor denied his request to help amputate his leg, Zheng took matters into his own hands. In April of last year, Zheng wrapped a towel around a wooden back scratcher, put it in his mouth and bit down and began cutting into his own leg, without the use of anesthesia. Zheng was biting down so hard from the pain, he reportedly lost four molars. The small saw that he used reportedly broke in half because of the force used to cut through his leg. Because of the thrombosis, there wasn’t much blood during Zheng’s self-surgery. He used basic first aid to help his leg heal. With iodine, erythromycin, gauze, and pain killers, his leg was eventually able to heal.

Unfortunately, while the pain in his right leg from the thrombosis had disappeared, he soon realized that the pain in his left leg had spread above the knee.

Zheng’s wife, who also suffers from heart disease and diabetes, has put some of her own health issues behind to help her husband. The couple’s 17-year-old daughter dropped out of school to work at a shoe factory and is currently the only provider for the family. Zheng says that he is willing to get to work again, doing simple manual labor, but needs help to do so.

“Other than my two legs, there is not a single problem with my body.”