Surgeon says ‘it’s a miracle’ North Korea defector is alive
The South Korean surgeon who treated a soldier from North Korea following his daring dash across the line that divides the rival countries said it’s “a miracle that he survived.”
Dr. Lee Cook-Jong in an interview with CNN recalled the moments he learned 24-year-old Oh Chong Song had been shot five times by his fellow soldiers while he fled from North to South Korea. The defector on Nov. 15 was air-lifted to the trauma center he runs at the Ajou University Hospital in Seoul.
“His vital signs were so unstable, he was dying of low blood pressure, he was dying of shock,” Lee told the news station. “He was like a broken jar. We couldn’t put enough blood in him.”
Oh had been struck through his right knee joint, his tricep muscle, and again in the chest with an exit wound through is shoulder.
As Lee started to remove another bullet that had struck the soldier’s intestines, parasites started squirming out of Oh’s body.
“Everything was stained with blood, but the parasite was basically a really white color and this thick, big long and very, very hard, this kind of thing was getting out from his bowel system,” the surgeon said.
Some of the worms, typically transmitted through contact with unclean hands or feces, were more than 10 inches long.
The procedure to save Oh’s life overall lasted more than six hours, and Lee two days later operated on Oh again for another three hours.
The soldier has since embarked on a fast-paced recovery. While his condition remains grave, Oh is currently stable and is walking, talking and using the restroom on his own.
His liver functions remain a top concern as the 24-year-old, who aspires to study law, continues to recover from tuberculosis and hepatitis B.
Lee said his patient is also likely struggling form post-traumatic stress disorder and that he often has nightmares.
Oh, in a bid to comfort himself, has hung a large South Korean flag on the wall of his room.
“He actually asked me, ‘is it really South Korea?’ And I said, ‘have a look at that flag. Have you ever seen that flag in North Korea?’” Lee said.
The surgeon, who has become protective of Oh, said his condition is so delicate he’s “very firmly” told South Korean officials they must wait to question him until he gives them the okay.
“If there’s so many questions about his past years in North Korea, it might affect his emotional status,” Lee told CNN. “So if he’s in a depressed status, he may not be able to eat properly or recover properly.”
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