SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, NOV. 24 -- No one on the bridge that day, including first mate Angel Valida, had seen or heard the Exocet missile skimming over the water until the explosion shattered the wheelhouse of the 130-foot, American-owned workboat named Big Orange 14.

Valida, a 35-year-old Filipino, was the senior crew member to survive the Sept. 1 Iraqi missile attack and the only one to give a detailed account of the ship's loss and of his treatment in Iranian hospitals.

Valida left Iran at the end of last month and is resting at a private hospital here.

His story gives an insight into conditions inside Iran, where thousands of Iranian war casualties are being treated in a medical system strained by shortage of resources and by an overlay of Islamic revolutionary zeal.

It also demonstrates the daily terror of Exocet Alley, where a determined Iran continues to send dozens of oil tankers and merchant ships through the gantlet of Iraqi aerial bombardments and missile attacks aimed at cutting the sea lane that is most vital to Iran's economic survival.

Big Orange 14, owned by a Houston-based oil field service company, had been out on supply runs for Iran's National Oil Tanker Co. for nearly a week when orders came to pick up a crew of divers completing an underwater inspection of Kharg Island's crude oil pipelines to the Iranian mainland.

The crew reluctantly turned northwest and started working their way up the coastline, running without lights at night and turning on their radar for only moments at a time because they suspected that radar energy could guide an Iraqi missile to them.

By noon on Sept. 1, they were picking their way through a fleet of Iranian and Australian fishing boats when the missile struck with a blast and fireball that disintegrated the bridge windows.

"The explosion threw me two meters {about six feet} and I fell down the stairway," Valida said. When he opened his eyes he could not see for the blood flowing from his head wounds.

A life preserver had been blown out of a closet behind a cabin door and was within his reach.

Covered with blood, his leg broken and dangling grotesquely, Valida was helped to the rail by his mates, who had thrown a dinghy over the side. The engineer already was in the boat and the others told Valida to get in. When he hesitated, they pushed him. Valida missed the dinghy and fell into the sea.

The engineer reached out and grabbed Valida by the hair and pulled him into the rubber craft.

Later, the Iranian coast guard rushed Valida to shore, where deep cuts on his face, scalp and upper torso were bleeding and his shattered leg brought intense pain during a bumpy ambulance ride. The first two Iranian doctors who worked on Valida sutured his skin without administering anesthetic.

Valida shrieked and pushed them away. "Let me die because I cannot stand any more pain," he shouted. He pleaded that his company was willing to pay for anesthetic, but an Iranian doctor snapped that the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had declared that all medical care was free.

"He treated me like a soldier," Valida said, "even when I tried to hold his hand {during painful moments} he slapped me."

A Filipino doctor finally appeared to stitch Valida's wounds under anesthesia. A team of Indian doctors set Valida's leg, piercing it with three steel bars to support the bone fragments.

For the next month, Valida learned what military hospital life is like in Iran. The hospital, in Bushehr, was full of wounded soldiers from Iran's Pasdaran Corps, the Revolutionary Guards who are at the forefront of Iran's war effort against Iraq's port city of Basra.

During the first few weeks, an Iranian soldier named Ali, who came daily to the hospital to see his brother, tried to convert Valida to the revolution and gave him a book on Islam. He condemned the West and asserted that "America is a small country" and that Iran would easily defeat it.

Nursing care was hampered by strict Islamic rules governing the female nursing staff. Valida went for 34 days without a bath because the nurses, dressed in traditional black chadors, did not touch the male patients except to change their dressings and administer medication.

Patients soon learned that the only way to survive was to assist each other, with bedpans, food and compassion. A British ship captain, whose shuttle tanker had been hit by an Iraqi missile, was also hospitalized for part of Valida's stay. Both of his arms were in casts. "I was the one who was feeding him, because there was no one else to help," Valida said.

The hospital fare was bread in the morning and rice at noon and at night. Because of his serious leg injury, Valida was granted a high-protein diet ration: meat at night hidden under a layer of rice so the other patients could not see it.

Valida found Iranian morale strong. The local mullahs and family members came daily to the hospital to comfort Iranian soldiers nursing bullet and shrapnel wounds delivered by Iraqi gunners.

One Iranian soldier, whose rocket-propelled grenade launcher had blown up on his back, kept a shortwave radio. After he listened to the Farsi news broadcast from Kuwait, he gave the radio to Valida so he could tune in the British Broadcasting Corp.

An English-speaking nurse smuggled in copies of Australian Vogue magazine, the only thing she had in English, for Valida to read, but the photos of models in bikinis and evening dresses scandalized some of the injured Pasdaran, so Valida kept the magazines stuffed under his mattress.

On Oct. 3, Valida was transferred to Toos General Hospital in Tehran. Although he was able to travel, it took another 19 days for the Iranians to approve travel papers for Valida, whose passport had been lost on the Big Orange.

Doctors here have said he will eventually regain the full use of his leg. Next week he is going home to the Philippines for a year's rest from the gulf war.