Horst Fass Moves From Bangkok Hospital To A Rehabilitation Hospital In Germany

Jul 2, 2005

Horst Faas has arrived at the Klinik Marnau rehabilitation hospital in Murnau, Germany, for continued treatment after being transferred from the Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, says the AP's Denis D. Gray in Bangkok.

"Horst just called from Germany where he says he has a gorgeous view of the Alps from his bed. He even managed to get some good Bavarian beer last night," Gray reports. The update says Faas will have a computer bedside within a few days so that he can correspond via eMail and he can continue working on book and exhibition projects, although he remains paralyzed from the chest down.

Faas, 72, was stricken May 4 in Hanoi with a blood clot on his spinal column. He was evacuated by plane to Thailand where he's been in hospital until the transfer this week to Germany. He sent friends and associates an eMail earlier this week from his infirmary bed in Thailand telling of the upcoming flight to Germany, and that he anticipates many days of recovery are still ahead.

"Thank you for the continuing flow of encouraging messages for which I am very greatful," Faas wrote. "Thanks to the help of the AP's benefits department and Aetna, I will be finally transferred by Thai International to Germany on Tuesday where I will be treated, with the help of some good Bavarian beer, at a specialist clinic for the next weeks or months."

"My status is unfortunately unchanged: I cannot control my movements from the chest down and have no feeling in that area. So there has been no visible progress. However, I have been told that it may be a matter of months before there are improvements. I will be patient and work hard.

"I will let you know my mobile phone number and room telephone when I can, and plan to set up my computer for eMails."

Through Gray, Faas told friends and associates that he will be under the care of Dr. M. Potulski at the Klinic Murnau in a department that specializes in motion injuries and rehabilitation from spinal cord injuries. The hospital is on the outskirts of Munich at the foot of the Bavarian Alps and surrounded by lakes and mountain views.

A legendary war photojournalist and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, Faas, 72, had been hospitalized in Bangkok since he was evacuated from Hanoi on May 4 following a 30th anniversary reunion of photojournalists who covered the Vietnam War. Doctors at first thought he might be having a heart problem but then later discovered that he was suffering from a large blood clot on his spinal column.

Faas retired last year from the Associated Press in London where he was the senior editor of photography for Europe after a five-decade career as one of the world’s leading conflict photographers. He was stricken in Hanoi shortly after the war reunion and while he was getting ready to present one of his photography clinics with associate Tim Page and other photojournalists, reports his long-time friend Richard Pyleof the Associated Press, who was with Faas and other journalists in Vietnam for the 30th anniversary of the end of the war. Pyle says Faas was taken to a Hanoi emergency clinic, and then airlifted to Thailand for advanced care. Faas celebrated his 72nd birthday in Saigon on April 27.

Pyle, who had been AP’s Saigon bureau chief during the war, and Faas, an AP photographer who covered Vietnam from very early in the conflict, are long-time friends as well as being co-authors of the book Lost Over Laos (Da Capo Press, 2003). Pyle said that Faas and many other photojournalists had been in Saigon for the war reunion before Faas flew to Hanoi to put on a workshop for Vietnamese photographers. Pyle said he and others in the group were on a tour in Saigon and when they returned to the hotel there was an urgent message from the AP bureau in Hanoi telling them to call immediately. When they did, they learned that Faas had been taken to an emergency clinic.

Krista Kennell, assistant managing editor of ZUMA Press, was also there. "Horst was taken from our hotel in Hanoi, the De Syloia, to a clinic. I had just got to know him that weekend," she said. "He's such an amazing guy, and told great stories. On the night of his birthday they had a big Vanity Fair photo shoot on the roof of the hotel, and then there were drinks and a few stories. I was so impressed with his openness and his humor. The day of the memorial, they were all outside and it was hot and they were running around in the heat. Maybe it was too much. On the day I shot his portrait (above) he was having trouble walking and standing. In fact, I had him sit down. When he got sick and they took him from the hotel, that night they flew him to Bangkok."

Pyle said that the Associated Press arranged for the aircraft, which was staffed with medical personnel, to evacuate Faas to the Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, for advanced treatment and care. Bumrungrad is Southeast Asia’s largest private hospital and the first hospital in Asia to be certified by the U.S.-based Joint Commission on International Accreditation, according to the hospital’s Web site, treating 275,000 patients annually from 150 nations. At Bumrungrad, Faas was treated by an Australian doctor who discovered the blood clot problem and he was taken into surgery to drain the blood from his spinal column, Pyle said. But the paralysis remained after surgery.

Faas was born in Berlin in 1933 and his photographic career began in 1951 with the Keystone Agency. He covered the Indochina peace negotiations in Geneva in 1954. He’s been with the AP since 1956 covering wars in the Congo, Algeria, Vietnam, and Laos. He was AP’s chief photographer for Southeast Asia from 1962 to 1974 based in Saigon, and he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1965 for his portfolio of photographs from Vietnam, then again in 1972 for his coverage of the conflict in Bangladesh. He’s a winner of the Robert Capa Gold Medal from the Overseas Press Club, and until his retirement from AP last year he was a senior editor based in their London bureau.

In addition to his own accomplishments as a photojournalist, Faas is the picture editor who pulled what he later called "The Perfect Newspicture" from a roll of the late Eddie Adams's film in Saigon on February 1, 1968. "The Saigon Execution," Faas wrote in The Digital Journalist, was "the perfectly framed and exposed 'frozen moment' of an event which I felt instantly would become representative of the brutality of the Vietnam War." Faas is also the picture editor who transmitted Nick Ut's famous "Napalm Girl" photograph of severely burned Kim Phuc in 1972, moving it on the AP photo network after another editor had refused to send it because of the graphic content.