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Atomic bomb survivor story

My name is Lonnie Carpenter. When I turned 17 years old, I went into the Navy. In 1963, I got orders to go to Japan. In 1964, me and my friends had a chance to go up to the Olympics. That's where I met my wife. I lost both my mom and dad really young, so I grew up by myself. So when I met Sue, she was on her own, we both knew something about life, and we just got along together.

Sue mentioned it that she had been in the atomic bomb, and that she had lost her sister. My feeling was that's not the good subject, because the Americans dropped the atomic bomb, and I had a tendency not to want to talk about that.

Sue: "I experienced the atomic bomb at the age of 11, I took the trolley to visit my sister at Morimachi area of Nagasaki City. As soon as I arrived there, there was a bright bluish orange flash that covered the entire sight. I was physically blown away by the explosion and lost consciousness. Apparently, I was buried under the debris, and my left hand was the only thing that was sticking out. Then a soldier that passed by rescued me, because he thought it might be a child. Apparently my leg was full of maggots, my face was purple and bloated, and my eyes were shut. Upon seeing the horrifying condition my body was in when she finally found me, my mother thought that it would make it easier for me if she left me there to die. (After the bombing) my leg was always full of maggots because the scar did not heal for a long time. My mother would pour alcohol onto it and scoop the maggots out with a spoon. I remember how painful that was, and how I hated my mother when she did that to me. My sister survived the bomb with only a slight injury. However she passed away on September 12th, within a week of the appearance of her first symptoms. She could not swallow any food, and her condition quickly became fatal. Seeing my mother grieving, I kept saying to myself that I would never ever die. Even my older brother encouraged me and told me, 'Sue, don't die, you can't die. If you die, I will slap you and wake you up!'"

Lonnie: "My wife, Sue, got very sick. She had an infection in her ear, and this infection has eaten into her skull. They told me that there is a pretty good chance that she was going to die."

Sue: "The doctor told me that there was only a 7 percent chance for a successful operation. However after the operation I could not see anything with either of my eyes. Things would appear in double. Therefore I always had to cover my left eye to see things normally."

Lonnie: "She lost the hearing of one of her ears, she has the leg problem, she's had high blood pressure, stints put in her heart, she's had catarac on her eyes, bowel movements for days upon end, high cholestrol, can't sleep, vertigo, two miscarriages with babies, then me and her would talk about 'is this atomic bomb related?' The only reason we thought that is because a lot of things that happened because of the atomic bomb didn't show up til later. Everybody didn't have this right away at the atomic bomb. If they were close, then they got all the heat, you could see the burns and what have you, and they would die fairly quick, but they are finding out that a lot of people have a lot of problems. Periodically, the Navy hospital -- boy -- when you say 'atomic bombs,' then the red flags come up. They don't want to deal with that."

Sue: "I had to go to the Navy hospital (in the U.S.) every week for two months, however the doctors never figured out what caused my symptoms. So when I finally told them that I had experienced the atomic bomb, they suddenly changed their attitudes, and told me to leave and go back to a specialized hospital in Japan for a treatment."

Lonnie: "If they don't find some reason why this is happening, it is kind of excused as it is not there. The people that experienced this are slowly dying. Pretty soon for the Japanese government and American government, the problem is going to go away because they are all going to die. They need to look at it little differently. They are not living with these people. You hold the thing here. I don't want you walking. Just give me the stuff. The less you've got to worry about, the less apt you are to fall. I live on the edge. I don't know if she is going to walk in the room, fall down and bang her head, I don't know if she is going to have heart attack. Then sometimes she'll start forgetting things. Or she will hand me something of medicine, and she will say 'I am all out.' I said 'you don't wait till they are all gone to tell me they are all out, you gotta tell me a week or so in advance, right?' But that is the thing I go with right now. But that is okay, I can handle that. That is life to me, I am supposed to. I am her husband, I am supposed to do that. I feel sorry for her, but she is my wife.

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