Heartfelt gratitude – Volodymyr Ventsel

Volodymyr Ventsel

Paramedic of the Center for Emergency Medical Aid and Disaster Medicine of the Kharkiv Regional Council

We worked under constant fire. Nights were the hardest. We drove without headlights or any lighting, for that matter. We passed checkpoints, roadblocks, fences. Navigation was challenging. And at the same time, you could have a patient in the car who is clinically dead and needs resuscitation. And something is humming and exploding around you at all times. Flashpoint experience.

My first emergency response shift was on February 27, and I hadn't been home since.

My whole team lived at work; we worked for several days in a row. Massive shelling began in March, so we were constantly in transit retrieving victims.

Sometimes we would arrive at the place of shelling, pick up the wounded, and rush away instantly to escape the repeat attack.

Or come to the emergency site and get under shelling there. Once we arrived at the incorrect address. We went to the house we were told to and started looking for the injured. And there were already broken windows and smashed cars; it was clear that there had been an explosion somewhere nearby. But no one knew who called an ambulance. And then, shells started landing some 300 meters away from us.

We ran into the hallway of the nearest building, hid under the stairs, and dialled the dispatcher. It turned out that we came to the wrong address, and here came under fire.

We could only pray that the ambulance was not damaged. We waited for a pause in the shelling, ran out and saw that shelling broke the rear window, cut the defibrillator cord, and that the car was a little cut by shrapnel.

We heard another explosion nearby when we finally arrived at the patient's correct address. We loaded the patient into the car as fast as possible, and our driver stepped on it. He is a great guy; he drove under fire, and trees and power lines fell on the road before us, but he coped brilliantly. When we made it to a safer location, we finally provided emergency treatment and hospitalized the patient.

We had another fascinating case. Once, we came for one patient but ended up taking another one. An older man became ill during the shelling while running to the basement.

He said that he couldn't breathe repeatedly. When we were carrying him to the car, shelling started from one side, and a fire broke out on the other. We barely escaped. And then he had a clinical death in the car. We were in transit, resuscitating a patient with a heart attack in the dark, passing roadblocks, and something was constantly buzzing, exploding, and falling. We defibrillated him several times and administered drugs.

But the main thing in our job is keeping a cool head.

You know, when you go on a call at two in the morning in a dark city, and something is humming and exploding around you at all times. You pass the roadblocks, climb to the ninth floor on foot because the elevators are out, and they tell you: "Give me some sedative, please." And there are many such cases. For some reason, they are always on the upper floors...