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As nuclear technician Hisashi Ouchi helped a colleague to pour litres of uranium into a huge metal vat, he was blissfully unaware that those moments would be his last without excruciating pain.
Seconds later a blue flash engulfed the room at the Tokaimura Nuclear Power Plant as the gloopy and dangerous mixture reached ‘critical point’, releasing neutron radiation and gamma-rays.
Ouchi, 35, was the worst affected by the unexpected blast as he had been draped across the tank.
He had been helping Masato Shinohara pour the radioactive liquid into the vat, while another colleague, Yutaka Yokokawa, had been working at a desk four metres away.
None of the men had been trained to perform such sensitive procedures, and it was later found that there was 16kg of uranium in the mixture, when the limit was 2.4kg.
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What happened at 10.35am on 28 September, 1999, would be the worst nuclear accident in Japan for years – and the start of 83 days of living hell for Ouchi.
Immediately after the explosion, he was falling in and out of consciousness, violently vomiting, and suffering from extreme burns.
It is believed he absorbed 17 Sieverts of radiation, the highest level any living human has been exposed to.
For context, eight is enough to kill. Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors were exposed to 0.5sv, and emergency workers who attended thehttps://www.dailystar.co.uk/latest/chernobyl
disaster in Ukraine were exposed to 0.25sv.
But despite experiencing such huge levels of radiation, Ouchi did not die – at least not immediately.
He was rushed to the University of Tokyo Hospital, where doctors were faced with a husk of man who was practically skin-less, had close to zero white blood cells, multiple organ failure and a destroyed immune system.
A team of the finest doctors in Japan and experts from around the world performed skin grafts and pumped him full of fluids and donor blood, keeping him locked away in a special radiation ward.
It is claimed he 'leaked' 20 litres of fluid from his partially skinned body every day.
According to local reports, he began bleeding from his eyeballs, prompting his wife to exclaim that he was “crying blood”.
The radiation blast obliterated his DNA, so doctors gave him stem cells donated by his sister in the hope that his body would use them to get stronger and help him recover.
It is hard to imagine the level of pain that Ouchi experienced in the weeks after the incident, and despite being pumped full of painkillers and put into an induced coma at times, he was also reported to have screamed for mercy.
After just seven days, he is reported to have screamed: “I can’t take it any more! I am not a guinea pig!”
As time went on, he became increasingly frustrated and demanded, "I want to go home", and for doctors to "stop it!"
On the 59th day, his heart stopped three times in 49 minutes, but on his family’s request he was resuscitated each time he 'died', damaging his brain and kidneys further.
His loved ones must have been desperate for the doctors’ medical interventions and experimental remedies to save poor Ouchi’s life and for him to be returned to them – no matter the state he was in.
Sadly for them, and mercifully for brave Ouchi, after weeks braindead on a life-support machine, his body finally gave up on December 21, 1999, due to multi-organ failure.
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