Friday, July 12, 2013

Man reunited with arm after 47 years

Dr. Sam Axelrad saved Nguyen Quang Hung's life in 1966 by amputating his arm.  Hung was a North Vietnamese soldier wounded in an ambush set up by American soldiers.  He was captured and transported to a field hospital and treated by Dr. Axelrad.  Hung made a full recovery and spent the rest of the war working with the Americans.

The story might have ended there except for what became of Hung's arm.  Medical colleagues of Dr. Axelrad decided to keep the amputated arm "as a reminder of an enemy life saved in the war."  They removed the flesh and reassembled the bones before presenting it to Dr. Axelrad.  Dr. Axelrad and Hung's arm traveled back to Texas.  The arm sat in a cupboard for almost 50 years.

In 2011 Dr. Axelrad decided to open the bag containing the arm and it gave him thoughts of returning to Vietnam.  He and his family went to Vietnam last summer.  A Vietnamese journalist was fascinated by Dr. Axelrads story and his mission of returning Hung's arm.  An article the journalist wrote provided the information that was needed.

The two former enemy soldiers were reunited recently.  It must have been an awkward moment when Dr. Axelrad opened a cardboard box he had been carrying and presented Hung with his arm.  Hung said, "I can't believe that an American doctor took my infected arm, got rid of the flesh, dried it, took it home and kept it for more than 40 years."  He went on to say, "it is not the kind of keepsake that most people would like to own."

I have to agree with Mr. Hung 100%.  You can read the story and watch a video of the reunion here.

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