November 18, 2019, 2:55 am

American doctor returns bone to a Vietnamese soldier after 47 years Tin ảnh

(14:46:32 PM 03/07/2013)
( - The arm bones had been kept by Doctor Sam Axelrad for 47 years. He could not believe that half a century after the surgery, the Vietnamese soldier was still alive to receive a portion of his body.


The picture was taken in 1967. Dr. Sam Axelrad holds the arm bones beside soldier Nguyen Quang Hung. Photo: AP


Dr. Sam Axelrad flew from Houston to Hanoi on June 28. On July 1, he, his son and two grandsons handed over the arm bones to Vietnamese veteran Nguyen Quang Hung in the town of An Khe, Gia Lai province.


"I am the guardian of this arm," said Dr. Sam Axelrad. He said that he was extremely happy" to have the opportunity to return the memento of a very special time for its owner.


Hung’s arm was in necrosis after being shot in a raid by U.S. troops, 75 km from An Khe town, in October 1966. After swimming through a stream and hiding himself in a rice warehouse for three days, Hung was transported by a U.S. helicopter to the medical camp where Axelrad worked at the point of death, with necrosis in one arm.


"When I cut off his arm, my colleagues took it, removed the meat, engrafted the bones perfectly and gave it to me,” Mr. Axelrad, 74, said.


"When I left Vietnam 6 months later, I did not want to throw it away. I put it in the suitcase and brought it back home. Since then, the arm has been kept in my house."


The meeting after 47 years of the American doctor and soldier Nguyen Quang Hung in An Khe town, Gia Lai province. Photo: AP


More than 40 years later, suddenly one day Axelrad reviewed his war memorabilia and he wanted to return the arm to its owner.


In 2011, he returned to Vietnam, visited the wartime bomb shelter in the Metropole Hanoi Hotel and told his story to the guide, who was a local reporter. She wrote about the story of the American doctor and the special arm. Thanks to the story, Axelrad discovered that the Vietnamese soldier is still alive and decided to return the arm bone to him.


To carry out his intention, Axelrad had to work for months with the consular and transport agencies in the U.S.


"Finally, I was allowed to take the bone in my luggage and it went through the checkpoints without any problems," he said. "You cannot carry a body without permission, but it is possible for the bone."


Mr. Nguyen Quang Hung, now 74 years old and have 7 children. His wife passed away recently.


In 1966, after his arm was cut, Hung took eight months to recover. He worked as an assistant for the U.S. Army doctors for six months and experienced the rest of the war by medical practice in his village. After the war, he worked in the local government for 10 years and then retired to do farm work.


Initially, he could not believe that his arm bones would be taken to Vietnam. He was too shocked to know that he would be receiving a body part that he had lost since he was 27.


"I'm too excited. I think this is very rare in Vietnam, even the world," said the veteran. "I will put the arm in a glass box. I will tell my guests that I used to fight like that," he said and hoped that when he dies, he will be buried together with the bones.

Phuong Linh

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