50 Years Later, New 'Hope' for 'Napalm Girl'

Laser treatments have lessened Kim Phuc's pain, restored sensation
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 30, 2022 11:05 AM CDT
50 Years Later, New 'Hope' for 'Napalm Girl'
Kim Phuc receives a laser treatment Tuesday at the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute in Miami.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

(Newser) – "I heard the noise, bup-bup bup-bup, and then suddenly there was fire everywhere around me and I saw the fire all over my arm," Kim Phuc said Tuesday, recalling a moment 50 years earlier when a napalm bomb struck her Vietnamese village. The subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, the 59-year-old who now lives in Toronto suffered burns to 65% of her body. That was followed by decades of intense, chronic pain before she began laser treatments at a clinic in Miami in 2015. On Tuesday, the 12th and what should be the last round of major treatment to heal and remove scar tissue wrapped up, per NBC News.

The fractional blade laser "vaporizes the scar tissue," Dr. Jill Waibel of the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute, who agreed to perform the service for free, told WTVJ. "Twelve times, and now, yes, absolutely, after those treatments my pain is so much better," Phuc told CBS4. "I used to hold my new grandson and could not feel his touch, and now, I can feel him," she added, per People. "It's so beautiful that I want to cry each time he touches me." Nick Ut, the AP photographer who snapped a photo of the 9-year-old screaming in agony, was alongside Phuc for the procedure. "I saw her arm burning, her body burning so badly," the 71-year-old said of that day in June 1972, per NBC.

He rushed Phuc to a hospital, where staff only agreed to accept the child after much pressing. After being turned away three times, "I say 'I'm media, if she die, my picture's on the front page of every newspaper tomorrow,' and ... they took her right away inside," Ut said. "To be honest, he saved my life, and he became a part of my family," said Phuc, who will only require minor laser treatments moving forward, CBS4 reports. "She looks better,” said Ut. Most importantly, she's "so happy." "Because of this treatment, I now have hope, and that's what I want to share with people," Phuc told People. "If 'The Girl in the Picture' can have hope, then you can have hope, too." (Read more uplifting news stories.)

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