Heartfelt gratitude – Ihor Bielkin

Ihor Bielkin

Head of the surgical department of the Orikhiv multidisciplinary intensive care hospital

There were many tragic incidents. Especially among the civilians. A farmer who was working on his land. A woman who tended to the fresh grave of her father in the cemetery. These people drove around, walked, lived their lives and, at one point, ended up on my operating table.

In these past five months, so much happened I could fill a book with these stories.

On the morning of February 24, I left the house, got into the car, drove to work, and realized what had happened. I lived in Zaporizhzhia and worked in Orikhiv, about 50 km away. I heard the sounds of explosions, and I saw the shelling site on the way. There were plumes of black smoke. All hospitals immediately went into military mode.

Polohy, Nesteryanka, Kopani, Myrne. The fighting started there, and the injured came to us.

We performed no scheduled procedures; we treated only the wounded and urgent pathology. My life changed. I took my wife and daughter abroad and stayed overnight in the hospital. The road to Zaporizhzhia was already under fire, and it was dangerous to drive there. I spent a month at work at one time.

Every situation stays in my memory—especially the cases when civilians suffer.

The employees of a small farm near Orikhiv were hiding in a bomb shelter. The owner would take care of the farm twice a day. One day he did have enough time to come back and take cover. He was brought in on the brink of death. He had a brain injury, and one of his legs was broken. And the other one was practically torn off. It hung on the very skin.

He was immediately taken into intensive care. We began to stabilize him and started a blood transfusion. And then the light went out, and the generator shut down. The surgery in such conditions was arduous, but we managed to save one limb. We stabilized him within a day and had him transported to Zaporizhzhia for the next stage of treatment.

Then they brought an already dead woman. She went to the cemetery on the ninth day after her father's death.

He also got injured when trying to escape the shelling; he ran, tripped, got wounded and died three or four later. Another tragic aspect was that her daughter-in-law worked as a nurse in the admitting department at our hospital. So when the woman was brought in, her daughter-in-law came to admit the body—such a terrible coincidence.

Every day left an indelible impression on me. Every day something terrible happened—tragedies of people, dead, injured, disabled. We worked as hard as we could in extreme conditions.

The first shelling of our hospital took place on May 7. The front was approaching, and the shell fell right in the parking lot in front of the surgical building. The windows and frames in that department were shaking. We immediately evacuated the patients and returned to the hospital. We went on working because the wounded kept arriving. After the second shelling on the territory of the hospital hit the maternity ward on May 27, we evacuated utterly.