More than 40 years since 9-year-old Kim Phuc was photographed running from the aftermath of a napalm attack in South Vietnam, she’s receiving a series of laser treatments to smoothen her scars and relieve the pain.Kim Phuc, centre, runs with her brothers and cousins, followed by South Vietnamese forces, down Route 1 near Trang Bang.
In June 1972 a South Vietnamese military plane accidentally dropped flaming napalm on its own troops and civilians.
A famous photograph taken at the time showed 9-year-old Kim Phuc fleeing from the scene in the village of Trang Bang near Saigon – she had ripped off her clothes to stop the burning.
Now, more than four decades later, Phuc has begun a series of laser treatments at the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute to smooth and soften the scar tissue that she has been living with for over 40 years.
Speaking to the Associated Press from her home in Canada, Phuc, 52, described the treatment as uncomfortable, and said her skin was red from the procedure.
However, she’s determined to continue with it, The Guardian reported.
“So many years I thought that I have no more scars, no more pain when I’m in heaven,” she said. “But now – heaven on earth for me!
“Maybe it takes a year but I am really excited – and thankful.”
Dr Jill Waibel of the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute said Phuc will need a series of seven treatments over the course of nine months. These treatments, Waibel said, will also relieve the aches and pains that she currently still suffers, The Guardian reported.
The laser procedure – originally designed for smoothing out wrinkles around the eyes – involves heating Phuc’s skin to boiling point, which will vapourise her scar tissue, Waibel said. The process will create microscopic holes in her skin, allowing collagen-building treatments to be absorbed through the many layers of tissue.
Speaking to CNN in June, Phuc said of the napalm attack: “I always remember that horrible day that we ran from life to death.”
The 1972 photograph, taken by 21-year-old Associated Press photojournalist Nick Ut, became a symbol of the horrors of the Vietnam war.
Ut said he saw parts of her skin falling off as she ran towards him, and that the napalm had seared her neck, back, and left arm.
“I said [at the time]: ‘Oh my God I don’t believe she’s burned so badly’… I put my camera down on the highway and tried to help her,” Ut told CNN.
The image won the photographer the Pulitzer Prize and the pair have kept in contact ever since, with Ut taking pictures of Phuc’s new treatment.
“He’s the beginning and the end,” Phuc said.
“He took my picture and now he’ll be here with me with this new journey, new chapter.”