Lady Heather Mills McCartney appeared on a very special edition of the Larry King Live program this evening. Introduced by talk show host Larry King, as " a good friend, humanitarian and activist, working to get artificial limbs for children and adults maimed by landmines and other war-related explosives. .. a driving force in an effort to clear dangerous minefields from war-torn countries, and of course is the wife of Sir Paul McCartney." Mr. King announced that he was honored that Heather will be hosting his program in the fall and in the months ahead.
Mr. King's first question to Heather (in London) was, "How's the family - how's everybody doing?"
" Everybody's great. The tour is finally over, so we're a little bit more settled, and it's a good job, because it's given me time to sort of do even more charity work. So we're all pretty settled now, thanks.
The McCartneys will be living in Los Angeles in October. Will Sir Paul be touring the USA again?
"Yes, he is. But we're going to stay put, and he can fly in and out. So America has got a lot to look forward to."
How is the Adopt a Minefield doing?
"We're doing really well. We've benefited over 366,000 people, a lot of that is a big thank you to the people of America for being so generous, and hopefully we'll keep continuing to donate to Landmines.org, to help so many war-torn survivors and victims. We've raised over $10 million now, and we just continue to keep pushing forward and doing our work in the world....
"100 percent of the money goes to actually clearing minefields and helping men, women and children around the world that have had their lives devastated in one way or the other, by landmines and unexploded ordnance. It's one of the few charities where 100 percent of the money does do that, because I work voluntarily, and so do many of the people -- many of our staff. And for those who obviously have to earn money to pay their own bills at home, we got funding from previously the State Department and from corporations....
"We know there's over 70 million mines still buried. But what I like to focus on is actually imagine that, you know, you're helping a community rather than say, oh my God, 70 million, we can't remove all of those. But we took as a group -- and I say we -- all the mine clearance charities in the world and the NGOs, the last bomb in Kosovo, last landmine, last year. So you know, it's very achievable. And they're such indiscriminate weapons that we have to continue to keep pushing forward. And we're still taking them out in Vietnam, which is, as we know, over 30 years ago, and we have children there that are still being blown up from landmines that were spread all over, in areas like Quingtree province. But we finally just cleared that area, and re-housed about 90 families. So we're getting there...
" It's Landmines.org, even though it's Adopt a Minefield, the charity. If anyone wants to help any men, women and children in postwar conflict, then they can donate there. They're shown exactly which minefield they'll help. They can actually choose, and they give you a certificate and informed of what their money has done to change that community.
Did the difficulties she suffered in her youth lead her to do what she is doing now?
" I mean, I can't really guess, but you would imagine that I could have gone two ways. I could have either set on the path of just constantly thinking about myself and trying to get somewhere myself, or actually trying to help others. A lot of people think I only got involved in the landmine and the war-torn survivor situations since I've lost my leg. But I actually was working as a ski instructor in the former Yugoslavia before the war broke out, and obviously, when the war did break out, because of the currency rapidly deflating and everybody panicking, I went in to help some refugees and worked on the front-line in Bosnia and Sarajevo, and in areas like that for two years before I lost my leg. So I think that spurred me even more into helping those less advantaged than me.
How did she lose her leg?
" I lost my leg a few days ago, August 8, '93. So that's 11 years ago. And I was crossing the street on a visit back to England, trying to publicize the problems of the war in the former Yugoslavia. And a motorcycle came from behind a red bus, chopped my leg off, crashed my pelvis, punctured my lungs, split my head open. And I was rushed to the hospital, pronounced nearly dead four times to my sister. And I survived, obviously, to tell the story. And ended up having my first limb fitted, that was huge and uncomfortable and very heavy, and was of no use after six, seven weeks. So I said, are you going to recycle this? And they said, no, we're not paid to dismantle. And then I found out at that time, there were 67,000 amputees in the country, all with spare artificial limbs in the cupboard, you know, they had previously discarded. So I collected those, got the prisoners from prisons around the country to dismantle them, and with my prosthetist, Bob Watts, he trained them on how to do that. And we put them all into a great big truck and sent them down to former Yugoslavia. And got a prosthetist from each country around the world to donate two weeks of their time -- because they can actually do that away from their own patients. And we did a rotor system, and managed to fit above 27,000 people. So that was eight and a half years ago now...
" To be honest, my mother had lost her leg at the same age as me, in the same place, and they reattached it. So when I heard it had been severely damaged and had been sort of ripped off and there was no way they could put it back on, I actually had a moment of relief, because I knew the suffering that she had, and she eventually died of bad blood circulation. Clots went into her heart and lungs. So I was kind of blessed, now seen what happens with reattachments in former Yugoslavia when people lost their limbs to mines there. So I felt kind of blessed, which sounds crazy. And all I was concerned about was getting a limb that would allow me to ski and roller blade and dance and run around.
Is there anything she can't do that she used to do?
" No. I can roller blade now, and I never used to be able to. So probably more things I can do now. I can still run for the bus. And I still can wear four-inch heels. So I can't think of anything that I can't do.
Does she have feeling in her lost let?
"Yes. I have phantom pains, which you just get used to after a while, but I actually don't mind them, because I think it helps me walk better, because I actually forget that my leg is not there, and I have a very comfortable leg. I am very lucky to have a really good prosthetist, and I can just run, you know, around, really comfortably. You know, I can pop it off.
Does she consider the loss of her leg a blessing?
"It was totally a blessing, because, you know, I was fighting for the cause for two years in the former Yugoslavia, and only able to help on a small, one-to-one basis, taking medical equipment and helping refugees get out of there. And as soon as I lost my leg, you know, I'd been a model for 10 years, and it was all like, model loses leg, and you know, overcomes adversity. And it became a very positive, inspirational story, apparently, and it enabled me -- I didn't realize that by overcoming my disability, that it inspired a lot of other people to get on with their lives. It took the stigma away from that. And it enabled me to help thousands of people now.
Why does the tabloid press give her such a bad time?
" Because I married a Beatle, Larry, why else? You know, Yoko got the same, you know, it's just par for the course. I've had eight years of fantastic press, and I was very open about my life, and I wrote a book, and the money went to charity. And you know, 10 years ago, and as soon as I met my husband, I went absolutely quite, to respect him and his family. And they didn't like it, so they got the knives out. And it did upset me for a while, but now it just goes over my head, you know. They do it with most celebrities. I can't think of one celebrity that hasn't been attacked at some point. But the biggest problem is that I had a lot of interest from the clinic to help us make artificial limbs for third-world countries, and they actually pulled away and said, you know what, you know, such and such paper has said bad things, and we're not going to help anymore. And that's when it's crossing the line, because that means thousands of people, children especially, suffer because of the rubbish the tabloids make up. So finally, they'll take some responsibility and realize that life's too short to live in such a sort of shallow world, and actually get on there and make a difference.
Adopt a Landmine (sic) has now expanded into survival assistance?
"Yeah. It's Adopt a Minefield, but don't worry, everyone says, "adopt a landmine." And it happened because I was introduced to a gentleman called Bill Lords, that set up Adopt a Minefield months previously, and he asked for my involvement. And I said, only if you help the survivors as well, because the situation at the moment in America is, that the State Department funds mine clearance, but apart from a few places in Europe, they do not fund survivor assistance. Now, it's very important and absolutely essential for mine clearance. But if you're not going to help the survivors, some people call them victims, a lot of them like to be called survivors, of mine -- of landmines, then you're not doing the job that you should be doing. You put the bombs down there; you have to help, you know, the children and the men and the women that have -- lives have been devastated by those mines. So we do need funds desperately, to be able to help those, because not much money is coming in for survivor assistance. So I insisted that they donate 25 percent of all donations to the survivors, and that 75 percent went to the mine clearance, because essentially, we've got to get the mines cleared.
Heather announced that Sir Paul and Neil Young will perform at a big fundraising event for the organization in October in Los Angeles. Go to Landmines.org for details.
Heather offers psychological help to survivors as well.
"You know, I tend to get asked to come and see survivors, because they look at me and think, well, she looks absolutely normal. And then I pop my leg off, and they realize that they, you know, can be exactly like me, given the chance to have a comfortable limb, and it just makes them feel that they've got somebody to relate to, because otherwise you say, it's going to be OK, you're fine, and you're standing there with all your limbs, they can't relate to you so much. So I do that. And just push them to realize that, you know, with some help from us, they can carry on as they did before. And actually go on to become an inspiration themselves. That's the most important thing.
The first few weeks are the most difficult?
"Absolutely, because you haven't got any idea. You know, what's going to happen to your life? You basically have nobody coming to see you, which is why I try and get to see people who have lost limbs as quickly as possible. And it's really -- you're still in shock, so it's your family that need the most counseling, because they feel helpless. They can't say anything, they can't do anything. Or they feel they can't, but they actually can, you know, getting on the Internet and looking up prosthetics and limbs and showing them what's available out there is a key thing. So I try and inform them immediately. And anybody that is an amputee or about to lose a limb and checks on to HeatherMillsMcCartney.com, we've got an amputee forum there that we set up. So when I counsel someone, I insist that they join, and they go on, when they overcome their disability, to help somebody else. And now we've got hundreds of people helping each other all around the world."
Heather was joined on the program by Zeynab ( an 11-year-old who lost her right leg above the knee when a cluster bomb fell on her home near Basra, Iraq - Zeynab spoke through an interpreter) and Bob Watts, a renowned London prosthetist who fitted Zeynab and Heather with their prosthetic limbs.
How did Heather find Zeynab?
"I found her, I was having unbelievably a day off in a spa with all the girls, and we all switched the mobile phones off, and luckily one of the girls didn't, and they were gotten hold of, and said that -- I was about to out of the country, and they said a young girl has just been flown in and brought by a journalist called Lee Gordon, who was brave enough to get her out of Iraq, because there were no facilities to make her a limb, and bring her back to England, which was a big process. And would I meet with her? So I changed all the plans, and met with her in the morning. And wanted to meet privately, but they said they needed some publicity on it, to help the other children, and nobody was interested unless I was involved, or stood with her, which was quite sad. And so I did. And when I met her, I did my usual trick, popped my leg off, and she immediately changed and said, 'is she a princess, and will I be like her?' And I promised her that we would fit her up with a limb, which we have, and she's walking very well, and we've been swimming. And I just can't believe how strong she is. She's just, as you can see, she's an incredible girl, and she wants to spread the message of all the other children that are devastated in her country, and the help that they need."
Zeynab is holding something .
"She's holding the little baby leg, so it shows like to what degree these limbs have to be made. Some people are genetically born, and Bob makes these amazing silicon limbs that look lifelike. But we also have mine victims of little babies, so that's a real message of, you know, the devastation of war.
Has Heather learned about Iraq from Zeynab?
"Really have. I asked, on the first meeting, you know, what did you think of Saddam Hussein before this war? Was he like -- was he bogeyman, or was he, you know, somebody that you didn't know too much about? And she said, yes, we knew about him, we knew that he wasn't a good man, but I had no fear of him. He was, you know, I was allowed to play in the street with my friends, they weren't harmed. She just wishes that we'd never gone in, as in the British and Americans. You know, it's very, very difficult, because we went in for good reasons, but you know, there's been three wars since Saddam came in, starting with the Iran-Iraq, and you know, you can never win because you instill bitterness into the children, and they grow up and they start another war, and another war. So wars don't ever solve anything. They just don't...
"At the moment, Larry, she's -- we've had her [Zeynab] physically examined, and there is shrapnel there, but she's been through so much trauma that to put her through another operation that's not absolutely essential at the moment -- we're just trying to make her life as near to normal as possible, which is, you know, pretty impossible, but she's such a tenacious, incredible girl. So we're focusing mainly on the limb, as you can see. I mean, she's just unbelievable. She's inspirational.
"She'd never been swimming in her life before. So it wasn't just a matter of learning to swim, it wasn't just a matter of learning to swim again and be in water, because she'd lost her leg. She literally never, ever swam in her life. So we started off with hands around the neck and claw marks in the shoulders, and then after an hour of bouncing around, she finally let go, and then six hours later, she was swimming by herself, with some armbands. So she's going to make it and become an inspiration. I wouldn't be surprised if she wasn't ruling Iraq in 20, 30 years.
" I just think a lot to do with her own genetics and her own character. Because people say, 'oh, how do you overcome this? how do you do that?' But you get people who go through terrible lives and end up messed up, or end up incredible, like Zeynab, and you know, she obviously had quite a difficult life before the war started, you know, very poor country, and we were pretty terrible in doing the Oil for Food program, because we weren't really giving the right amount of money for the oil. Otherwise Iraq would have been a very rich country and had an abundance of food. So I think we have a lot to -- to be responsible for in the years gone by. And I think she's had to grow up in difficult circumstances, which you either become a survivor or you collapse and break down. But she's -- she's just amazing. I think she's just born with that incredible spirit.
Has Heather worked with UNICEF?
"No, I haven't, actually. I've done work with the Red Cross and the International Committee for the Red Cross and OXFAM , but I know a lot of the UNICEF work, but we haven't done any work together... And Landmines.org, if anyone wants to help children like Zeynab.
Does Heather want to go to Iraq?
"I'd be there in a short, if my husband wasn't sort of tying me down, and my responsibility towards my baby. I've never had any fear for war zones. I've been in them quite a number of times. But now I'm a mommy, I've got big responsibilities, and I find that I can do more by helping directly with the people here, and around the world. But we're not even sending our NGOs and prosthetists there at the moment. We're trying to set a clinic up in Basra, and it's just too dangerous. Even if we get protection from the British army, it makes it a target. So it's that real dilemma of wanting to get in there and get it done, and protecting our own civilians. So we're just trying to raise the money, get the groundwork set up, so that we've got enough components, and got everything planned, and the second it gets safer we'll be in there straight away. We helped fund Handicap International in the north for survivors in the Kurdish area, which was less of a threat, but it's too far from Basra for little children like Zeynab to get to, so we really have to concentrate on setting the groundwork up."
How did Zeynab get to London from Iraq?
" Through an amazing guy called Lee Gordon, that was out there on behalf of The Daily Telegraph, and he just kept coming by her, hobbling around on some rickety wooden crutches, and just couldn't believe that there were no facilities for artificial limbs. And he managed to persuade her father, got her out, and just as he got her out, the father wanted her back; had to go all the way back again. And obviously, being one of the sole remaining members of the family, the father wanted his daughter to be with him, but at the same time have the best care, of which there is none for prosthetics at that time, and she came -- she came out through this guy. And he contacted me straight away, to try and bring some awareness. The biggest problem at the moment, Larry, is that as Carol [Bellamy of UNICEF] was saying, you know, some of the local Iraqis can do the work, but most of our prosthetists that were local Iraqis working in Basra actually were based in Baghdad, so they find it very difficult to take the risk to get from Baghdad to Basra. So this service is very, very limited. So it's this whole security issue that's really the biggest problem.
"We have about 600 to 800 amputees at the moment, just around the Basra area, waiting for artificial limbs. Yeah. Just from this war.
" Because of the security issue and because of funding, you know. We can get within ... we're still trying to get more money together, and every day more people, two or three children a day, are being maimed or killed by mines. So we've got so much unexploded ordnance just strewn around from people that just wanted the boxes as firewood, so there's a big problem. Then you've got the mines left over from the last war, and also you know, the Iraq-Iran war on the borders. But it's just a crazy situation. But it's mainly down to the security. We have got some funding, so we can go in there as soon as the area is safe."
Should land mines be banned?
"They are banned in a lot of countries, but some countries haven't ratified, and the good news is, since the Mine Ban Treaty came about, the manufacture of them has gone down immensely. But it's rumored that most mined areas that people are buying for are being used in Chechnya and now in Sudan. So we're going to have a huge problem there. But -- because there's no oil there, how much are we going to help? So ... as in governments. Of course, we'll help as a charity. But they are the two main areas, Chechnya and Sudan, that have a mine currently being planted problem as we speak."
Will Zeynab go back to Iraq soon?
"She's going to go back soon. We're in a real dilemma, because it's ... it's a balance between her going back in safety and her actually being with her father, and he is her ... in charge of her life at the moment, so it's entirely up to him, what he wishes. But you know, it's just so dangerous. There are so many cluster bombs still there, and so much fighting going on. And the reason that Britain and America use these cluster bombs is because they are an actual bomb with many bomblets, as they're called, and they can fit so much more into, you know, an airplane, because they can be used in artillery or dropped. And there are just tiny little bomblets in one bomb, and they spread all over the place. So as far as how many bombs can we fit on this plane to cause as much destruction as possible, the cluster bomb is the one, so that's why they use this cluster bomb, and that's how one bomb can kill 17 members of Zeynab's family.
Could her father come to London?
"The father ... well, that's a really good point, actually. It's very difficult to get them in for any length of time. We've got a short visa that we keep begging for longer for for Zeynab. But you know, it's this whole situation that we have in Britain and America at the moment, where you have these refugees, and how many will the country let into their own country? Because then they get targeted as people that are using the taxpayers' money here, and it just becomes and much, much bigger issue. The main thing is to get the care to the people in the country that we went to war with, and to sustain that. You know, we went in and did what we did in Afghanistan, and we, the NGOs, are left to clear it up and tidy it up and deal with it. And it just can't go on any longer, that you keep starting a war and don't follow it through."
(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)
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