Sardines and dragonflies are gone
Mrs. Kitamura: “My husband and I have been married 47 years. We were both born in Himejima, in Osaka’s Nishiyodogawa Ward, and we have lived our lives with this part of the city.” Nishiyodogawa used to be clean, and there were sardines and eels in the Yodo River. But the river was polluted, the sky was darkened with factory smoke, the cicadas and dragonflies disappeared, and the people fell ill because of the pollution. Mr. Kitamura suffers chronic bronchitis and class II emphysema, andhis wife has class III chronic bronchitis. Their life together is one of mutual consolation and encouragement.Mr. Kitamura testified in court. While struggling to get his breath he wheezed out the following statement a word at a time.
Leaves hospital bed to take the witness stand
“I cough and have trouble breathing. I can’t get rid of the phlegm. It’s hard phlegm that keeps coming out, and it’s always clinging to my windpipe. Sometimes it plugs up my windpipe and I can’t get my breath. When that happens I break out in a greasy sweat, and I feel as if I’m going to die.” Mrs. Kitamura watched from behind as her husband fought for breath to continue his statement.”I bend forward and beat my chest with both hands while breathing deeply to try and get the phlegm out. If that doesn’t work, I have my wife pound my back from behind. I’m ashamed to say this, but when getting rid of the phlegm this way I wet my pants. I feel so miserable that I can’t control it.”Mr. Kitamura had left his hospital bed to take the witness stand. “My doctor said that he couldn’t guarantee I would be all right away from the hospital.” “My husband’s two elder brothers both died of pollution-caused illnesses, so he felt he absolutely must appear in court,” said Mrs. Kitamura.
(From Nishiyodogawa Pollution Lawsuit Plaintiffs and Counsel News No. 2, October 6, 1994)
A Spell So Bad that I Fainted
My husband and I are both ill from pollution. Our beds are always prepared for us to lie down. At night I put two pillows down by my head and chest, and curl up on my side because I can’t sleep on my back. I haven’t slept on my back for over 15 years.
Once I suffered an asthma spell so bad that I fainted. It was at dawn when I had an attack, and lost consciousness. I didn’t come to until Dr. Teramoto slapped me on the cheek and yelled “Open your eyes!” When I came to and looked, my husband was crying.
When we were living in Hyakushima, I went to the Himejima Hospital in an ambulance four or five times a month. I got to be well known among the neighbors, who would say, “The ambulance is at Mrs. Yamaki’s place again.”
The saddest thing that happened to me is when my third daughter, who married and moved to Aichi, gave birth by Cesarean section and asked me to come and help for a while. When I said I couldn’t because of my condition, she cried, saying that her husband’s mother had been there helping for about a month.
When I thought about it, I recalled that about the only times my husband and our three children had gone somewhere together was when the children were still small, and we packed lunches for outings to Arima and Minoo.
One time when we were on the train I got an attack, so I got off the train hurriedly at the next station, and took medicine to stop the spell. Since that time I’ve never taken the train anywhere because I’m afraid I’ll suffer a spell again.
I’ve campaigned against pollution because I want it to stop, and to see that no more people have to suffer as I have.
(From the Nishiyodogawa Pollution Lawsuit Plaintiffs and Counsel News, October 13, 1994, No. 3)
Fish Belly-Up in the River
It was around 1954 when I moved to Nishiyodogawa on account of my husband’s work. In that days the area was a grayish, dirty place, and there were many dead fish floating belly-up in the river. No matter how many times I cleaned the floor in a day, it would be gritty again in no time, and when I hung white sheets out to dry, they would soon turn black. After a while of living there I too became a victim of pollution, and life became a daily routine of coughing and phlegm. People who have never experienced the suffering of that heavy coughing caused by pollution will find it hard to imagine. No matter how much you cough, it just doesn’t stop. Your throat is stopped up by thick phlegm, and finally you’re not able to breathe any more. Your body is drenched with sweat, your thinking becomes fuzzy, and you wonder if you’re going to cough yourself to death right then.
Spare Our Children and Grandchildren
Nearly every day I have these coughing spells. When it happens it night, I can’t sleep. Almost every day I visit the hospital. Sometimes I think that I’d be better off dead because it would set me free of this. Still, I keep going because I don’t want our children and grandchildren to suffer like this. It’s my wish that no more people will fall victim to pollution.
(From the Nishiyodogawa Pollution Lawsuit Plaintiffs and Counsel News, October 20, 1994, No. 4)
Family of Four, All Pollution Victims
All members of our family — I, my husband, and our two children — have been victimized by pollution. Our daughter, who is the elder of our children, has had trouble breathing since she was small because of asthma. I could actually feel her breathing difficulty when I held her. She would cry every night until finally she ran out of strength and stopped.
I too have a pollution illness. When I get an asthma spell I can’t breathe. At times like that, it feels as though there’s no longer any air to breathe around me. I can’t sleep on those nights, so I fold my mattress, sit leaning against it, and wait for morning. I’d hoped that our second child (a son) would be strong and unaffected by this, but after a while he too started having the breathing difficulty as his sister. When my little boy got an asthma attack he would pound his chest, wheeze, and say with difficulty, “Let’s go to the hospital, please.” He’s learned that if he goes to the hospital and gets a shot, it will be a little easier to breathe.
Husband Dies in Suffering
After my son was born I stopped receiving treatment for myself. We couldn’t afford it any more because both our children were being treated.
Last September my husband died. Throughout our family’s suffering he’d worked hard on the fight in court. He was in the hospital and trying to get rid of thick phlegm. His nurse tried to put an aspirator in his throat and remove the phlegm, but my husband couldn’t stand that any more, either, and bit the aspirator tube to keep the nurse from inserting it.
(From the Nishiyodogawa Pollution Lawsuit Plaintiffs and Counsel News, February 23, 1995, No. 18)
Strikes Husband in Agony
When I get an asthma spell in the middle of the night I can’t breathe when lying on my side. I sit up holding onto a mattress rolled up and tied with cord, which I keep ready. I wheeze and fight for breath, waiting for the spell to pass. One time it was so bad that I unknowingly broke the cord that ties the rolled up mattress. One morning I looked at my husband’s arm and found a black and blue mark on it. It seems that during night he had rubbed my back for me to help relieve my suffering, and I had unknowingly struck his arm to make him stop, perhaps because I thought even his ministrations were annoying.
Suicide Stopped by Passerby
My husband works rotating shifts, and that irregular schedule alone makes it hard for him to get enough sleep. Yet, he is kind to me and never complains about my asthma spells or the sound of my coughing. He seems even kinder and gentler when I’m suffering. That’s why, at night when I get an asthma attack, I worry so much about waking him up.
On two occasions in the past, I’ve thought that my husband would be better off without me, and stood on the bank of the Kanzaki River intent on suicide. Once a passerby stopped me, and the other time I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so went home. After going home I kept quaking with fear for a long time.
On a number of occasions I’ve overheard neighbors talking about me, saying, “Mrs. Obara gets compensation payments. It must be nice.” But they only see me when I’m not suffering. It’s so mortifying to hear them talk like that. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought I’d like to go to their homes and say, “If you free me from this sickness, I’ll gladly do without the compensation.”
(From the Nishiyodogawa Pollution Lawsuit Plaintiffs and Counsel News, November 10, 1994, No. 6)