43 years after the South Vietnamese army accidentally dropped a Napalm bomb over her village, Kim Phuc still feels the pain of the burning fire which stuck to her body and left more than a third of her flesh burned and scarred to almost three times the thickness of normal skin. The iconic image of her running naked away from the errant strike was snapped by Nick Ut, a photographer for the Associated Press. Ut, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo, never abandoned Phuc even after he won his accolades.
He brought her to a hospital and listened to her screams to get initial treatment and even when Phuc and her husband eventually defected to Canada where they now live, Ut still treated her like an adopted daughter and regularly checked in to see how she was coping with her life and the memory of the day she was burned.
According to reports, Phuc underwent painful exercises every day in order to maintain elasticity and movement in her body, especially her left side. But the range of movement on her left arm is still not as wide as her right, and her damaged nerves from being burned fire errant pain signals which she describes being at a 10 on a scale of 10.
So when Ut learned of advancements in laser treatments developed for burn victims, he wondered if Phuc could benefit from them. He worried that because so much time had passed and because of her age at 52-years old, she may not be able to take advantage of the treatment.
Normally, laser treatments cost up to $1,500 to $2,000 per session. But Dr. Jill Waibel, a dermatologist at the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute who specializes in using lasers to treat burn victims, donated her services to Phuc when she called for a consult.
Waibel said that burn victims who endured trauma and scarring to the extent of Phuc's normally die from their injuries. Based on Waibel's assessments, Phuc's treatments would take around seven sessions of the course of eight to nine months and, most importantly for Phuc, would relieve her of the pain she has been living with for the past 47 years.
After the initial session in Miami last month, Phuc said she is resting and recovering back home in Canada and is eager to continue recieving laser treatments. Even if it takes a year, she is looking forward to finally having a pain-free life.
“I am really excited – and thankful,” she said.