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She’ll Live To Tell How AF Winked At the Book

By Hank Simons
S&S Staff Writer

OSAN AB, Korea—A three year old Korean girl left the Air Force hospital here recently with ten dolls and a couple of stuffed toy bears. She took one other thing back to the little Korean village of Chico—her life. The dolls were the gift of airmen on the base. Her life she owes to luck, the compassion of several U.S. servicemen, and the medical skill of a Korean doctor working with a team of Air Force doctors.

ON OCT. 17, little Choi Hyo-Ok was playing in the dirt road that runs through Chico, a town outside the gates of Osan AB. Suddenly, an unidentified truck roared down the road and struck the child, then drove off without stopping. It left behind an unconscious child with a broken leg, a shattered pelvis, and deep multiple gashes of the legs. Under normal circumstances in a country like Korea where transportation is slow and hospitals few and distant, Choi Hyo-Ok was as good as dead. But, what happened next rose above “normal circumstances.”

An Air Police patrol drove through the village and found the grief stricken mother and grandmother huddled over the injured child. The APs put Choi Hyo-Ok in their jeep and drove off for the base hospital.

THE CHILD was checked into the hospital, the cuts in her leg stitched and Bryant traction applied to her broken bones. “I really can’t encourage this sort of thing,” says Col. Spencer A. O’Brian, commander of the base hospital and flight surgeon for the 58th FB Wing. He explained the Air Force does not have facilities to give medical care to Korean Nationals. Then with a twinkle in his eyes he adds: “Of course, when you find the patient already in bed in Bryant traction, there’s not much you can do.” “Still,” he continues, working hard to repair his sternness, “I really can’t encourage this sort of thing.”

During her two months in the hospital, Choi Hyo-Ok was cared for by O’Brian and Dr. Yeong-Cheol Koh, as 32 year old graduate of Seoul National Medical College who served five years as a doctor in the ROK Air Force and is now employed at the base hospital to give outpatient care to Korean employees of the base.

THROUGHOUT her hospitalization, Choi Hyo-Ok was watched over, according to Oriental custom, by her grandmother, who stayed almost continually at her bedside to feed her, do her washing and give personal care. And pretty soon, airmen on the base began to drop by with gifts of candy and soon the dolls and two stuffed bears began to appear and take up more room in the bed than did Choi Hyo-Ok. The chubby Korean baby has gone home now and according to Dr. Koh “will be walking again by the beginning of the New Year.”


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