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.

65 comments:

  1. Tough little bastard, aren't ya?! Good luck dude.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So happy to see you still alive.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great article Chan. So glad you made it!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very happy to see you back on track.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My best wishes for a speedy recover, Chandler. We briefly talked one night in Silom, when it seemed that red shirt and "multi-colours" would start fighting between them. I was deeply saddened when I heard you were badly injured, and I'm very relieved to see you fought back.
    Alessandro (journalist from Italy)

    ReplyDelete
  6. FUCK THAKSIN. You should SUE that motherfucker for your injuries.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ya, and make him pay for the cameras those "shameless bastards" stolen. LOL

    Glad you're recovering.

    ReplyDelete
  8. You were unconcious, yet you are certain that military medics stole your camera. Hmmm. Claims like that don't add any credibility to your report.

    Knowing that a friend of yours had been shot and knowing how dangerous it was to be on the frontline. Dont you think wearing a flak jacket or bullet proof vest like other reporters would have been a good idea? You'll also see that a couple of the guys who helped carry you had small backpacks. Journo's in Bangkok who couldn't afford real protection stuffed a couple of hardback A4 workbooks in there to help prevent shrapnel entering their spine.

    ReplyDelete
  9. ผู้เขียนเป็นนักข่าวมือสมัครเล่น ผู้อย่างนี้ตื่นความรุนแรง

    ReplyDelete
  10. "Military medics at the scene took my pulse, couldn't find one, and pronounced me dead.

    The shameless bastards also stole my camera."

    That means Thai Army Gang of the Amartaya let you die. Surely I think like that too.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Inevitably there is always one idiot that posts a comment to try and compensate for his own personal shortcomings, usually someone who never actually experiences the situation in which he comments so 'expertly' on.

    "You were unconcious, yet you are certain that military medics stole your camera. Hmmm. Claims like that don't add any credibility to your report"

    Military medics were the first on the scene. His camera was gone in a few seconds. It's not rocket science.

    "Journo's in Bangkok who couldn't afford real protection stuffed a couple of hardback A4 workbooks in there to help prevent shrapnel entering their spine."

    Wood does not stop shrapnel.

    Hope your comments to a guy who just went through a terrible ordeal brings joy to your pathetic little life.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Dear Dr. bad. mofo. Chandler,

    glad that you've come through this back in one piece, and that your mind is still sharp.
    You're not just brave, but incredibly tough. I wouldn't have gone where you went (because it would scare the shit out of me), and I wouldn't think about going back after what you've just passed.

    Wishing you all the best in terms of health and professional success - cherish life!

    ReplyDelete
  13. just saw an article on VS that you're going to be interviewed on Thu. that's a very good news indeed that you feel much better now ! oh, man - what an experience! I agree though with KST - getting back into the same sh1t again, after all that's happened to you .... that is pretty serious decision - to say the least.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "Considering the Thai military were shooting protesters, civilians, and journalists indiscriminately"

    With all due respect for what you went through, this is a hotly disputed assertion, not a fact. I have not seen any footage of indiscriminate action by the Thai military - only partisan accusations. And certianly there's no shortage of footage of the activities by the military during that period.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Bangkok Dave - aren't you normally doing your propaganda over at that bastion of truth, The Nation?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Gotta love it when people who were not there try and tell people who WERE there all about what really happened or better yet, what the possibilities are.

    ReplyDelete
  17. "Considering the Thai military were shooting protesters, civilians, and journalists indiscriminately"

    Not true.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hello Chandler,

    My name is Constantin Simon. I am a the journalist who is holding your body with others at the extreme right of the second picture). I am very happy you are alive, your near death experience really worried me, not only about you, also about our job. Your return, dynamits me.

    Welcome back, comrade.

    C.S (French journalist based in India)
    constantinsimon@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. good lord man. that is quite a tale. excellent work and i am glad to hear you are ok.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Bangkok Dave either gets paid by the govt. or has military friends. Yeah, 90 people died because they killed each other.
    Montri

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thank God you have made a speedy and full recovery.

    I have been following with bated breath, hoping that you made it through okay. Thank you so much for bringing us this incredible photo journalism from the front lines, it was key to showing the inside of the reds camp, and helping us outsiders to understand more fully what was happening when all the news was propaganda-filled.

    Best wishes for a continued recovery and a successful rest of the year. I hope that "A Land Apart" will feature sometime in the next one? We are all looking forward to you using your considerable skill to shine a light on what is happening down there.

    Here's to luck, here's to bravery, here's to the revelation of truth.

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I hope to see more of your photos. And good luck with your recovery.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Pretty unbelievable story. Critical damage taken, and still alive? That is amazing, you are lucky!

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