Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine has forced the staff to transform Kyiv’s largest hospital, Clinical Hospital #8, into a battleground medical facility, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.
Dermatologists and cardiologists now assist with triaging wounded patients arriving from artillery and rocket barrages as the hospital sits within 10 miles of the battleground, the paper noted.
The staff are numb to the air raid sirens because they are so frequent to take seriously anymore, and don’t wear face masks because of the constant background noise of fighting as they try to talk to communicate, per the Journal.
"Of course we are not what we used to be, but neither is the rest of the country," said Dr. Igor Khomenko, the hospital director.
He worked for 30 years as a military surgeon, but quit earlier this year to become a civilian, yet his hope for a quiet civilian life was dashed when two weeks after he quit the military, the Russian invasion began, per the Journal.
"I tried civilian life and it didn’t last long," he noted, who now sleeps on a couch in his office away from his wife who has taken refuge far away from the battlefield.
He reduced his hospital staff by half and canceled elective surgeries, so 200 hospital beds would be free for patients wounded by the war, the paper said.
The hospital cases are a window into war tactics as they evolve – initially they were primarily gunshot wounds as gun battles rage, but as the war has progressed, more patients are arriving with shrapnel wounds and concussions, as both sides suffer from blast explosions from a distance, according to the news report.
But even though the hospital’s location is so close to the fighting, Khomenko notes it has one advantage – the wounded can go directly from the battlefield to the operating room.
This bypasses the traditional way the wounded are treated in war, where usually they first get treated on the battlefield as fighting continues, then mobile field hospitals while they await their opportunity to be transported to a surgical hospital for definitive care.
Khomenko describes one case: After a man was shot through the heart, the hospital staff saved his life by cracking his chest open and sewing the hole shut before the patient could bleed to death.
He told the paper he operated on the man and plugged the hole in his heart with his own index finger while it continued to pump to make sure the man didn’t bleed out.
Recently the Journal reported another example of Ukrainians suffering due to the unprovoked invasion. After the glass windows of the hospital shook from a large thud from a Russian missile, elderly civilians with bloody faces soon wobbled to the hospital entrance, with bandages on their heads.
After nurses helped the patients release their padded jackets as pieces of glass hidden in folds of their clothing pierced the floor, they wheeled them to the operating room on steel gurneys, where doctors painstakingly used tweezers to remove the shards of glass out of one man’s face, hands and buttocks, all while the patient lay on his stomach, clenching his fist in agony.
But it wasn’t over. The wounds then had to be stitched up, the paper noted.
"They tell me to come back to Gaza, that Ukraine is too dangerous," said Dr. Makhmud Akmad, the hospital’s leading vascular surgeon who was born in Gaza, but came to Ukraine to study medicine and stayed after meeting a fellow student who he later married.
"I tell them that I will stay here, Ukraine is my home now."