Doctor returns amputee's bones 47 years later

American doctor amputated arm of North Vietnamese soldier

Published  5:43 AM HST Jul 01, 2013
Vietnam

An American doctor has reunited a former North Vietnamese solider with his arm bones, which the doctor amputated while serving in the Vietnam War in 1966.
Dr. Sam Axelrad amputated Nguyen Quang Hung's arm after Hung was shot during a firefight. He escaped the fighting and eventually ended up in a U.S. military hospital, where Axelrad was forced to amputate the his right arm to keep a gangrene infection from spreading, according to the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.
One of Axelrad's fellow soldiers cleaned the bones, put them together with wires and gave them to Axelrad, which the doctor told the AP he kept as a reminder of what he had done.
"He probably thought we were going to put him in some prisoner-of-war camp. Surely he was totally surprised when we just took care of him," Axelrad told the AP.
Fast forward a few decades. Axelrad was going through a bag of war mementoes he had kept in a closet in his Texas home and was surprised to find the bones. He took a trip to Vietnam to try to find Hung, and a local journalist ended up writing about his story and desire to reunite the arm with its owner.
That story helped the two men find each other. The former war enemies reunited at Hung's home and met each other's families, and Axelrad returned the arm to its rightful owner.
Hung told AFP he's thrilled to have the bones back. He plans to be buried with them and use them to try to get war benefits -- because his military files were lost, he hasn't been able to claim a state pension, he told AFP.

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