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Victims of radiation sickness

In August 1945 the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By the end of 1945 the bombs killed as many as 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki. Since then, thousands more have died from injuries or illness attributed to exposure to radiation released by the bombs. This is how one man experienced the effects on his health immediately after the bomb was dropped and in the long term:

'Once home, I collapsed in a coma and remained unconscious for three weeks. Later, I was treated by a doctor - an ear, nose, and throat specialist - who came to our house morning and night to see me. Ordinarily, severe burns would not be treated by an otolaryngologist, but with nearly all the doctors and nurses in the city either dead or incapacitated, I was extremely fortunate to receive treatment from any sort of doctor at all. I battled my burns and disease for a year and a half, hovering between life and death. A Japanese saying goes, "Nine deaths for one life," and that was precisely my experience. My friends passed from this world with acute radiation sickness.

'I have survived these many years, but my right elbow and the fingers of my right hand except for my thumb are bent and immobile. Keloid scars remain on my back, arms and legs. The cartilage in my ears deteriorated from the blood and pus that collected there, leaving my ears deformed. I continue to grow a "black nail" from the first finger of my right hand. Further, I am afflicted with chronic hepatitis, a liver infection that is a nationally recognised after-effect of the bomb. I have been hospitalised ten times since 1971. Besides my liver problem, I am afflicted with numerous other ailments and cannot help but constantly worry about my health.'

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J W Dower, M Hachiya and W Wells, Hiroshima Diary: The Journal of a Japanese Physician, August 6-September 30, 1945 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995)

J Hersey, Hiroshima (London: Penguin, 1946)