Memories of nuclear bomb survivors - Part 1 Chapter 9

Radiation sickness


The next day Chizue went to a internist in the neighbourhood. He treated her wounds but knew nothing about providing further medication as he had no experience in treating this kind of illness. He sent Chizue home. When she left doctor's house, Chizue noticed that the people around her were crying. "The war is over!" said one of them to her.

During the morning she had wondered why there had been no air raid alarms. On the one hand, she was very much relieved to hear that the long war had ended but on the other hand, she could not understand why the end had been so long in coming - and only after such monstrous destruction had been committed! She asked herself repeatedly, "Why, why? We fought so long for our motherland and sacrificed so much. What can compensate for such sacrifice?"

The family house in Nagasaki was burned to ashes and her grandparents were dead. However, Chizue’s wounds healed gradually and her father resumed work in Nagasaki.
However, towards mid‐September Chizues gums began suddenly to bleed; she had a temperature of 38・C degrees; she felt exhausted; and she developed small red spots all over her body as if she had been bitten by fleas.
At that time not even doctors were aware of the cause or treatment for such symptoms - today known as radiation sickness. The disease began with sudden bleeding from the gums followed by loss of hair, diarrhea and a feeling of injury but without any external signs of damage. Finally there was rapid weight loss and anemia prior to death.

Some people said the disease was caused by the inhalation of toxic gas that emanated from the atomic bomb. Others said it was just dysentery – common around bomb sites. Some patients were informed that they were suffering from leukemia and in some families members family died one by one. People began to talk that those families must be cursed.
Because Chizue’s gums would not stop bleeding her mother took her to a dentist who lived in the neighborfood. "Aha, this bleeding is caused by the atomic bomb. You should stay at my clinic immediately." said the dentist, but he did not examine Chizues bleeding mouth. Chizue felt quite unsure, but decided to stay at that clinic.

Her mother told Chizue later, "That internist told me that you had only 2-3 days more to live." "You owe your life to the dentist. His daughter had died of leukaemia several days earlier and he gave you medicines that were leftover from her treatment. In addition, the father of the dentist was a blood disease specialist. Chizue, you were very lucky!" said the mother.

Chizue got blood transfusions after which she shivered and felt unwell. She had numerous injections but her condition varied - sometimes she felt better sometimes worse. Another young woman was brought to the dental clinic. However, in her case, the bleeding of the gums could not be stopped. The whole time she kept a tin like vessel close to her mouth from which, every morning, jelly-like clots of blood poured. She could not eat anything and despite of all the treatment she soon died.