After a KIA soldier stands on a land mine in Kachin State, photographer Ryan Libre documents the moment he’s brought into a training hospital for emergency treatment.
It was early morning when the staff at Woi Chye, KIO Military Hospital in Kachin, received a phone call informing them that a low ranking young soldier had stepped on a Burmese land mine near Nam Sang Yang while on patrol. The staff and trainee nurses were calm, such cases are common, at least every week, in a bad week it can be everyday. Most are soldiers on patrol or villagers returning to their farmland after fleeing fighting. Sometimes victims tread on Kachin made land mines, planted and forgotten.
The young soldier however, was injured at a distant KIA outpost and had to travel several times across Burmese territory, it wasn’t until midnight he was brought in. Waiting was Dr Johan, an up and coming young KIA doctor trained in China, his calmness spoke of the frequency and his experience of dealing with land mine injuries.
Healthcare in Kachin controlled areas is free and hospitals are generally well equipped, Woi Chye Central Military Hospital is the flagship, near the KIO capital of Laiza, it boasts modern equipment and medicine from China as well as well trained physicians. Today there were several nurses on a two week training course.
At midnight he came bursting in, carried by him comrades, the operation started and the young nurses all gathered round, they sympathetically held his hands and touched his hair and face. At about 3 am all the flesh was neatly cleaned from the soldier’s shin and calf. The anaesthetic left him numb from the waist down he had remained quite calm up to this point.
Now was the time for the saw. Despite not feeling any physical pain the sound of his own bone being sawed through was excruciating. The pain on his face was unbearable to watch. If it had been physical pain it wouldn’t have been as distributing but this was pure emotional pain.
As the sun came up he was put into a bed, a bed that would remain his for many months along the slow and difficult road to physical and emotional recovery.