While I was in the village of Khatcho on the other side of Myitkyina Township on Jan 11, 1976, a loud crash impelled many villagers to rush to the bank of Ayeyawady to investigate further what had happened. As we are Red Cross members, we have had an innate sense of sympathy towards the victims after hearing a loud crash on the road or in the river. As I was a local member of Red Cross, I also rushed on my bicycle towards the bank like the villagers did. I asked them what had happened. An army truck on the barge skidded and plunged into the water; the people on the barge didn’t have any idea whether there were any passengers or a driver in the car. They were too shocked to deal with the sunken car let alone rescued the passengers or a driver.
When I asked the onlookers on the barge, they told me one or two person went down with the truck. They kept shouting without considering how to rescue them. I wanted to put the blame on them; instead I swallowed a lot of commotion without saying a thing. I took off my clothes to dive into the water, inadvertently showing the crowd a red cross sign on my chest. They eagerly shouted red cross was coming and made the way for me. I studied around the barge before I dived down. Even though the water is 18 to 20 deep, it is crystal clear to see the overturned truck.
I was eager enough to save those who got trapped inside the vehicle. I repeatedly tried to open the door, but I found it hard to see something inside it. Accidentally my leg touched a hole to find a naked body. My ears happened to ache while staying underwater; but I managed to drag the naked body along to the surface. I put the body on my back by my left hand, with right hand clinging to the ropes thrown to me from aboard the barge. Then I managed to carry the patient on my back to get to the barge. The onlookers on the barge helped me get the patient on board the barge. As usual , they tried to crowd around the patient, leaving me in the water swimming around , let alone rescued me. If I got tired , the two persons were deemed to have lost our lives.
I tried to climb on board from the stern of the motor boat in order to help my patient with first aid treatment. First the patient was lain in a prone position, with me sitting astride on the body. My two hands joined under his belly and pulled upwards with the help of some one from the crowd to empty out the water from the belly completely. Two people helped me lift the body in a prone position so that I could go under his belly with his head downwards to empty out the water.
Water, vomit and faeces spurted out from nose, mouth and anus. The patient was tenderly put on his back , letting me think of proper treatment. I kept hearing from the crowd the patient was at death’s door. I was being advised not to put the patient on his back; he might die from bleeding, they said. The most important thing they didn’t notice was that the patient could not breathe and without a heartbeat.
He might have died with a minute. By ignoring their advice my immediate response was to make the patient breathe again. That is why I put him in a supine position in order to let him breathe easily. I sat down on his right side to perform a kind of resuscitation on him.
I ejected some vomit from his mouth by using two fingers.
Rice mixed with snot were at the tip of nose; stains of thick blood were found above the eyebrows. Although I knew four types of resuscitation, I was going to use easy and effective mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on him. A bristling moustache was found on him as he recently returned from a front line. Covering his nose with my left hand, I performed a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with all my efforts.
When his lungs got a lot of fresh air, his belly became bulging. I pressed down the bulging stomach with my right hand, letting the air out from his nose and mouth. I repeated did it, thereby letting the patient breathe and the heart being activated to start beating.
Some onlookers from the crowd had returned home assuming that the soldier had died. I was the only one who knew his real conditions.
With a relatively good health, I alighted from the barge with him on my back and treaded through the rocks in the hope of sending him to hospital by truck or by car. Clinics in Khatcho village were not open on Sundays; So, I had to send him to the Waingmaw Township Hospital which is four miles away . I earnestly requested the truck driver to send us to the Township Hospital. With the help of two soldiers, the patient took a front seat together with me; the patient lay on my lap in a prone position so that he could breathe effortlessly under my great care all along the way. Fortunately on the way we found a jeep to which the patient was removed from the truck in a state of vomit, water and filthy rags on the body. I finally breathed a sigh of relief because he started to breathe normally.
Upon arrival at the hospital at four in the afternoon, I again put him on my back and went into a ward. I warmed him with a blanket from a woman; in a moment he opened his mouth and showed his tongue with some blood stains, letting something immediately spring to my mind : he became fully conscious again. I still didn’t know the name of the patient with his colleagues letting me know his name. I let Ko Khin Maung Aye know he was now in hospital and soon a doctor came in and I explained to the doctor everything in detail what had happened.
First aid is a kind of treatment before a doctor has come: such as keeping a victim lying down, using a clean cloth or sterile dressing directly on the wound and taking care not to take out any object that is lodged in the wound. I heaved a sigh of relief when the doctor came in, assuming that my patient was safe and put under medically qualified staff in a township hospital.
Sai Aung Hlaing Myint of Myanmar was awarded with Henry Dunant Medal in 23rd International Committee of Red Cross conference in Bucharest, Rumania in 1977.
He was only 21 years old and became the youngest Henry Dunant Medal winner in that year. Born in the Khaungfu village, Myitkyina township on 15 March, 1959 he was a Shan Buddhist with a childhood name of Maung Tin Hlaing. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 25 March, 1985 and his body was donated to the Institute of Medicine(1).
Sai Aung Hlaing Myint