Although it seemed inevitable that we were ever going to escape this hell on earth, I had to stay focused on my work. After witnessing Annie’s death I completely shut down. I worked hard everyday and I refused to try and help anyone, even though some of them begged me to.
After a few days I was summoned to the commanding officer’s quarters. He wanted to discuss a new job for me within the camp.
“You are a nurse, are you not?” His translator relayed the message for me as she stood next to him. She wore the same garb as I did, and looked just as starved.
“I am,” I said.
“Our men are wounded at a hospital near here. They are short on nurses and doctors. One of the men is my brother. He is about to lose his leg.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” I said with as much sympathy as I could muster.
“That can’t happen,” he said. “If he loses his leg he will be useless, and the Japanese Army has no time for useless soldiers. You must go to the hospital and you must make sure they don’t remove his leg.”
“And what if I can’t stop them?” I asked.
He signals a soldier and the soldier sets his rifle on me. The message was pretty clear.
I was led to the vehicle blindfolded, and arrived at the hospital after twenty minutes. The smell of decay and festering body fluids assaulted my senses as I entered the hospital. By the sound of things, the hospital was full of injured soldiers and civilians
The guards finally removed the blindfold from my eyes and I found myself standing before a young man with his leg blown up. I observed him for a moment, taking note of all his injuries, his breathing. I took his pulse which is breaking the charts of a normal heart rate, and his eyes were dilated. I looked at his leg. It was covered in blood and I could see right to the bone. There was no way I could keep this man from losing his leg. It already showed signs of no blood circulation to it.
“Save his leg!” The commanding officer yelled.
How could he expect such a miracle from me. He’s setting me up to fail just so he could shoot me. He has been wanting to since I came to the camp. Ever since I started helping my prison mates.
“I need a needle and thread,” I said. “I’m going to try and stitch up the wound.”
I worked as hard as I could, trying to mend what I knew I could mend of his leg, but it was no use. The leg was completely cold and blue. It had to be amputated, but I knew that if I tried the officer would shoot me dead.
“Do you want your brother to die?” I snapped at the commander.
He stood, conflicted with my question.
“He will die if this leg isn’t amputated. So you have a choice. Lose his leg and let him face the risks, or he dies a senseless death.”
The Commanding Officer struggled to give me an answer, looking to his soldiers for a solution or encouragement. He simply nodded his approval at me to proceed with the amputation.
It only took a few minutes to remove the leg. It was messy and it was certainly noisy. The hospital was short on morphine to numb the patients so I had to do it with as little morphine as I was allowed in order for it to stretch to other patients. I knew the dosage wouldn’t be enough and I urged one of the soldiers to help me by pinning him down. As I proceeded to cut, he cried and he screamed. He begged in Japanese what sounded like a plea for me to stop, but I cut right through.
The soldiers carried him off to another room for recovery as I finished cleaning up. I heard a gun click and I look up to see the Commanding Officer pointing his revolver at me. For the first time he spoke in English to me.
“You might have saved my brother, but you still did not keep your promise.”
He aimed the gun at me, as his finger pulled on the trigger.