Yuriko’s life with “Microcephaly”
The story of Kunizo Hatanaka
On the day of August 6, 1945, when I was thirty years old, I was in the Shikoku region (one of the four main islands of Japan) to fight in a battle, so my wife, 26 years old, was alone with a little baby at home in Hiroshima.
August 6.1945, my pregnant wife was exposed to the bomb.
That day my wife had to be mobilized, in my place, to destroy wooden houses in the neighborhood(wooden houses are easily burnt and cause fires when attacked from the air). On that day, because I was out of Hiroshima, my wife had to work in my place with her little baby boy (only one year old), and she was exposed to the A-bomb 730 meters away from the hypocenter. Here let me tell you the situation in detail as it was when the atomic bomb was dropped. Again in the morning of 6 August, 1945, my wife was working with the men of the neighborhood and one of the men worried about my wife because she was pregnant, working with her little baby, and suggested her to take a rest at a hut nearby. So she moved to the hut and just after she entered, the atomic bomb exploded. The hut she was in was swayed by the blast, it suddenly got dark outside. She stayed there, keeping her body low and saw it gradualy getting brighter outside. Even after the bomb exploded she felt very much fear because she thought maybe another one would be dropped. And as it became brighter outside, she saw many people running away. My wife began to run with them but she did not understand where they were heading and actually there were no places to go.
While they were running away, it began to rain and she found that the rain was black rain (the black rain includes radiation). She entered a hut nearby to wait for the rain to stop and turned around to her little boy. She was so shocked to see that her baby was bleeding from his head. The telephone booth nearby had been exploded by the blast and pieces of glasses stuck in his head. She began to pull the pieces of glass from his head. Meanwhile it stopped raining and she went back to her house. She saw everything was gone including her house. She spent two days in an evacuation cave, and the next day she went to Otake city, her hometown. It is still a big surprise for me to know that some of the people who were directly injured in the bombing could survive while the people who had looked unhurt after the A-bombing died. I know that although such people looked unhurt they were exposed to the radiation and later developed radiation-related disease.
One week later after the bombing my wife began to show some symptoms of radiation disease such as blisters on her back, diarrhea, her teeth falling out and always feeling tired. She spent days in bed. Also because of the radiation, her hair began to fall out and she became bald. Some days later I came back to my house from Shikoku. Of course there were no jobs in such a situation, but I had to work to make a living, so I began to run a barber shop.
February 14.1946, Yuriko was born.
On February 14, 1946, my wife gave birth, and this was the birth of my daughter Yuriko. When she was born she looked just like a normal baby. Although she was a little smaller than other babies, she just looked fine. Yes, she looked fine to us but not to the midwife who assisted the birth. For some reason she did not tell us immediately if the baby was a boy or girl. Rather she said to us “Please take good care of your baby.”
As she grew, Yuriko began to show some signs of being different from other babies. Even at the age of one she could not crawl or walk. We worried very much about my daughter, but my grandmother encouraged us, saying, “Don’t worry. She will begin to crawl soon, so don’t worry.” However even at the age of two, she could not crawl or walk. And at the age three, still she could not crawl or walk. Gradually, we began to worry seriously about her. We wanted to take her to the doctor, but we could not afford to do that because we were in such a serious condition financially. At the age of 6, the age when ordinary kids enter elementary school, Yuriko could not go to school because she could not take care of herself. For example, she could not go to the ladies room by herself. Even at the age of seven she could not go to school. And she did not go to school even a day. Without going to school, she used to spend days reading visual books and eating sweets.
Microcephaly inflicted my daughter and cancer took the life of my wife.
One day, a group of scholars and doctors came to our home. One of the doctors examined Yuriko and diagnosed her as microcephalic (means “small head disease” see *1). The doctor knew that the disease is caused by the effects of radiation, and also he knew that because of the disease Yuriko would be retarded, late to grow and wouldn’t be able to walk normally. However, he did not mention about radiation and only diagnosed her as “microcephaly”. We still continued to believe that Yuriko would get well soon.
Eleven years had passed since the bombing and one day people of a film company visited us and asked to let them take a video of Yuriko. At the end of that year we had a chance to watch the video “The World in Fear” and we were very shocked to know that the disease of microcephaly is caused by radiation. You see, we spent 11 years not knowing about that. (Now 48 people suffer from microcephaly)
Some years later, my wife began to suffer an ache in her waist and legs and went to the doctor. He encouraged her to take a thorough examination. Meanwhile, my wife’s knees became weaker and weaker. Finally it turned out that she had developed bone-cancer. (Bone-cancer is a disease that makes bones thinner and thinner.) Her condition continued to become worse and one day, December 26, 1978 she passed away and never came back. She died very silently.
Sufferings that Yuriko experienced who was born after the atomic-bombing.
Finally, what I want to say is: war is miserable. You see, if a person is killed directly by an atomic bomb, the person will die; but we all have to die some day, some way. However, there are people who have to suffer for years after wars, though they are not exposed to radiation directly. Even babies who are not born at the time of the A-bombing have to suffer after they are born. They, too, have to suffer for many years. We, the caretakers, suffer too.
That’s why we have to abolish nuclear weapons. We have to talk to the young generation about the misery of nuclear weapons. We really have to do it. It is never enough for only the sufferers to understand how miserable war is. You see, if we let a candle burn out and never light another, the fire will be put out and never make a fire by itself. Likewise, we should not put out our desire for peace. I sincerely hope that you will continue to pass our fire–our desire for peace–no matter what happens over to the next generation and for ever.
In 1946, some women who were exposed to radiation relatively close to the hypocenter during pregnancy gave birth to babies with small heads. It was found that some of the babies had severe mental retardation. This condition is termed, “microcephaly”. These disabilities happened when pregnant women were exposed to radiation at a gestational age of 8-25 weeks (especially 8-15 weeks) because at this stage the fetal brain is particularly sensitive to radiation.