Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Almost killed by an M79 grenade

First photos, approximately 1 minute after the blast, I am unconscious and staring vacantly.

On May 19, after two months on the frontlines of the Red Shirt protest, I was hit by an M79 grenade and nearly lost my life.

I had changed tactics and was travelling with the army. Considering the Thai military were shooting protesters, civilians, and journalists indiscriminately (including a Canadian friend of mine who was shot three times and barly survived the trip to the hospital), it seemed sensible precaution to make.

But Red Shirt protesters, the so-called black shirts, were also armed and shooting and was I was photographing the gun battle on Ratchadamri and Sarasan just outside on Lumpini Park.

While I took cover with troops, black shirts launched a series of M79 grenades on to an empty road, two into Lumpin Park, one nears Silom, and one right onto a group of soldiers and myself.

The blast sent 24 pieces of shrapnel tearing through my back and legs, broke a number of ribs, and punctured both my lung and colon. 

Three additional pieces of shrapnel had struck the back of my head, shattered my skull, and entered my brain. A journalist would later tell me he found pieces of my skull on the ground.

I was unconscious, heavily bleeding, and my eyes were open and staring vacantly. Military medics at the scene took my pulse, couldn't find one, and pronounced me dead.

The shameless bastards also stole my camera.

Journalists soon arrived, noticed that I was attempting to breath, and rushed me to hospital.

In fact, the journalists and civilian medics made a great personal risk to help me as there was still heavy machine gun fire in the area. I am deeply grateful for what they did.

I woke up three days later in a Bangkok intensive care unit on Silm road (apparently I was already talking but I have no memory).

While I was torn up by shrapnel wounds that would take an astounding seven weeks to stop bleeding, my broken ribs were aching, and I was disoriented  from hearing loss in my left year, my head injuries were the most worrying.

Shrapnel had penetrated my skull and hit my brain. The neurosurgeon was able to removes two pieces but the third was too dangerous to remove and remains lodged in my head.

I was completely paralyzed on the entire right hand side. I also had serious trouble seeing and recognizing objects and couldn’t even recognize myself in a mirror.

Despite my injuries, I surprised everyone – including my gaggle of doctors – by checking myself out of  the hospital and hobbling away just three weeks later. 

And three months later, I have emerged with very few permanent injuries. Hearing damage, many scars, and an ugly limp, but I am walking and back at work.

So, needless to say, I am taking a break from bloging and concentrating on physiotherapy and work. 

But, considering Thailand’s political turmoil is far from over, I don’t think it will be a long break.