It’s an image from the Vietnam War that many people still can’t get out of their heads — immortalized in black and white and in color to personify for all time the limitless brutality of war.

Jill S. Waibel is providing laser therapy treatment to Kim Phuc free of charge

For 9-year-old Kim Phuc (watch the video), June 8, 1972 became the first day of the rest of her life — a traumatic era unknowingly set off by a South Vietnamese pilot who nearly killed her with an errant napalm strike in her hometown of Trang Bang and literally sent her screaming into the countryside.

Forced to tear off her burning clothes, a naked Kim was captured fleeing her village moments later by a still photographer and news cameraman — images that shocked the world and revealed the grave threats faced daily by Vietnam villagers caught in the middle of two warring forces, each trying to wipe the other from the face of the Earth.

What Kim did not know at the time, though, was that the images of her severe burns would also sear themselves onto the world’s collective conscience — through a black and white Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph and color video footage that for decades afterward stood as garish reminders of how horrifying war can be.

After nearly 45 years into her new life, though, Kim, now 52, may finally be on the cusp of putting the pain of the injuries she sustained that day behind her — thanks to a relatively new medical procedure intended to ease pain felt by burn victims like no treatment ever has before.

The potential medical breakthrough is being performed at the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute. By using refined laser therapy, the process breaks up thick scar tissue and lets the skin re-heal itself — almost to a perfect, painless condition.

“What we know about scars is they’re all wrong. It’s just chaotic healing,” Dr. Jill S. Waibel, a cutaneous laser surgery specialist at the clinic, told CBS News. “So we are going to take out pieces, tiny pieces of skin with this fractional laser and then allow the body to heal it almost to normal.”

Since gaining fame for being the infamous “napalm girl,” Kim has led a difficult life. The burns she received left scarring that runs up her left arm and down her entire back. And if that isn’t enough, the pain they’ve left are not only skin deep.

“At nine years old, I remember I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I got burned and I became ugly. And people will see me different way,’” Kim told CBS News.

After spending her teenage years in Vietnam, Kim attended college in Havana, Cuba, but lingering health issues stifled her dream of studying medicine. A few years later, she married and effectively defected to Canada — where the couple still live today.

Despite her still fighting physical pain 43 years on, Kim has embraced the challenging life she was given in June of 1972. She is now a Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO — the United Nations agency that promotes peace through education, science, and culture. She has also founded the Kim Phuc Foundation International — a non-profit organization that works to provide medical and psychological assistance to children worldwide who have been changed by war.

But she hopes the revolutionary treatment in South Florida will finally free her of the one remaining chain that still binds her painfully to the past.

It was only by happenstance that Kim found out about the new treatment process — from a man at her church whose daughter-in-law, Dr. Waibel, was developing the procedure in Miami.

“He said, ‘Kim, I have a daughter-in-law, she really helps people who got burned. Maybe you [should] try to relieve your pain,’” Kim recalled. “And so I said, ‘Yes, I will!’”

Dr. Waibel said she expects Kim will need between seven to 10 laser therapy treatments — sessions that cost between $1,500 and $2,000, which she is providing to Kim free of charge.

“I am hoping to decrease Kim’s pain and improve the texture of her scars,” she told ABC News in a statement.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

Join the Conversation

10 Comments

  1. Nice blog here! Also your site loads up fast! What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  2. I wanted to create you a tiny observation so as to say thank you once again with your unique opinions you have discussed in this article. It has been simply surprisingly generous of people like you to allow extensively all that a number of us could possibly have made available for an ebook to help with making some bucks for themselves, even more so seeing that you might have tried it in case you wanted. The tactics also acted to provide a great way to be sure that some people have the identical passion like mine to learn more when considering this condition. I’m sure there are a lot more pleasant periods ahead for many who scan your blog post.

  3. “I just could not depart your web site before suggesting that I really enjoyed the standard info a person provide for your visitors? Is going to be back often to check up on new posts”

  4. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

  5. What i do not understood is actually how you’re not really much more well-liked than you may be right now. You are very intelligent. You realize therefore significantly relating to this subject, produced me personally consider it from numerous varied angles. Its like women and men aren’t fascinated unless it is one thing to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs outstanding. Always maintain it up!

  6. Hi, Neat post. There’s an issue together with your web site in internet explorer, would test this… IE still is the market leader and a good component of other folks will pass over your excellent writing because of this problem.

  7. That is the proper weblog for anybody who desires to seek out out about this topic. You realize a lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). You undoubtedly put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *