АвторAuthor: Olha Verkalets | Translation: Diana Bevtsyk
4 August 2022
Bohdan “Cheh” Zhuravel is the commander of the medical post of the National Guard battalion. A few weeks ago, he returned from a rotation in Vinnytsia. Here he previously worked as a civil surgeon. On July 14, when the Russians hit the city with rockets, he took the soldiers for examination. The explosion caught Bohdan at his former job, from where he immediately went to the epicenter of the events. «Monologues of the War” learned about providing aid to the wounded and the specifics of the work of a military medic.
I was born in Zaporizhzhia. I studied for a doctor before the full-scale invasion. The first two courses were in Donetsk, the following years and the internship took place in Vinnytsia. The last year I worked at the Vinnytsia Endocrinological Dispensary and I was engaged in plastic surgery.
Until February 24, I did not fully realize the scale of the situation that has been unfolding in Ukraine for eight years. I was not fully interested in events in the East of Ukraine. But at the beginning of a full-scale invasion, I reconsidered everything. At the end of February, I finished my civil affairs, mobilized and began to serve.
Thursday, July 14, started out as a normal day for me. A few weeks ago, we returned from the rotation. We were engaged in the treatment of post-war syndromes such as contusions and problems with the cardiovascular system. On July 14, we took the military to an MRI. I had an hour of free time, so I went to my old job at the endocrinology dispensary to see everyone. At that moment there was an explosion.
I immediately understood that these were arrivals. But I thought that somewhere in the region. Maybe they didn’t even get to the settlement. That’s why I didn’t panic. People were fussing, but I calmly went to the department. At that moment I got a call to leave urgently.
Ten to twenty seconds passed and we were already driving. Only the driver of my ambulance vehicle, which is military property, was with me. We reached the epicenter in five to six minutes.
We arrived. We saw ours and immediately coordinated. I went to check the floors in the Jubilee Building . Some of the medics have already provided assistance to the victims who were pulled from the parking, the Officers’ House or the church. There was panic, a smoke screen. No one understood what was happening. People took pictures of everything around them. Nearby was a burned-out car with a child inside. I was pleasantly surprised that no one was shooting it.
We quickly passed the floors of the Jubilee building . There were also several policemen and soldiers of the Armed Forces. At first we called to see if anyone was alive. And then we searched people under the collapsed walls and doors. The last two floors were closed. The door cannot be broken. We abandoned this idea and went down to help the wounded.
The power of the fire was so powerful that at a distance of 50 meters from the Officers’ House, we felt such a temperature as if we were standing close to the fire. Then I realized how scary and unpleasant the work of firefighters is.
«The victims mostly had burns. I have never been in the epicenter of events after a missile strike. We saw the consequences of artillery, mine-explosive devices, automatic weapons, bullet wounds and crushing. But I have never seen the consequences of a missile landing. All the wounded, regardless of how close they were to the place of the explosion, had burns of various degrees. People who were in the epicenter were burned to the ground».
I provided assistance to three seriously injured people. One of them had injuries incompatible with life. Contrary to my words, an unknown civilian threw him into my car. Because of this, it was necessary to take two more lightly injured people into the car and take them to the City Clinical Hospital for Emergency Medical Aid.
Nowadays I don’t know about the condition of the seriously injured. I did not help in the hospital because I was not a civilian. Let’s say I was on assignment, and the military has no right to stay in medical facilities.
Even at the scene of the events, I was sure that it was impossible to help him. And instead of him, another person could be saved. In such cases, triage of patients should be in the first place. A clinically experienced person should assess who has a chance of survival. In military structures, there is a practice that the wounded, whose injuries are not compatible with life, are given help last (before the lightly wounded).
But I told a single case. At that time, patient triaging and evacuation were at the highest level. I remember the moment when we were already towing the cars, and the civilian medics were confused and standing on the side. A hospitalist or emergency doctor ran up to them and told them to follow her to triage the wounded.
Why did this happen to that man? There are two reasons. The first that it was happened almost immediately after the arrival. And the second is the wounded lay far from the main scene of the tragedy.
That is why they were engaged in sorting out rubble and towing cars.
After the missile arrival , there were fewer people on the street. They already respond more actively to alarm signals. I hope there will be no more tragedies like the one in Vinnytsia.
Doctors in a position like mine are not in super hot spots. We don’t go on missions and we don’t run 24/7 with machines. The risk to life is less. I watch how infantry, intelligence live in hot spots for months and I really admire them.
My job is safe. I monitor the health of the personnel, detect diseases, examine if necessary, monitor the condition of my transport, so that it is fully equipped with first-aid kits and the necessary medicines for providing emergency care.
«I have what to eat and what to wear. There is time to sleep. I hurt the most for my loved ones. I rarely see them. I want everything to end as soon as possible. But I am determined to fight until the end, as long as it takes. I don’t know when and where we will go to the front again. We are not told such information ahead of time».
Limb injuries occur most often among military personnel. They are lighter compared to injuries of the chest and cranial cavity of the body. There are also shrapnel wounds and blast wave damage. These injuries require a long rehabilitation, but the mortality rate is low if qualified emergency care is provided.
Injuries that do not require specialized care (deployment of a large operating room), I do in the field conditions . It happened that I sewed a hand in a car or a forehead in a sled. Conditions are different.
In the first days of the war, we had stocks of medical supplies, but not for emergency purposes. There was a shortage of flexible tires, tourniquets, elastic bandages and convenient first-aid kits. But over time, volunteers helped a lot, and the state allocated part of the funds. Currently, there is a shortage only of chest occlusive dressings and decompression needles.
When we talk about civilian medicine, doctors are in the foreground. And when it is connected to the military, then fighters are in the first place. I used to think that the wounded were saved just on the battlefield. But, according to NATO standards, the first point in providing aid to the wounded is fire suppression. And then the evacuation stages begin. The first is to the shelter zone, where the bleeding can be stopped. And the second in an evacuation vehicle, where other assistance is provided.
But this does not apply to the doctors of the company. In my opinion, it is more military than medical. This is a person who also participates in combat missions, but has experience in providing medical care.
If you delve into history, the most difficult and bloodiest conflicts have always occurred between neighbors. Let’s recall the Hundredth, Irish or Chechen wars.
It takes a long time for people to realize that we are actually enemies with the Russians. Our blood is very mixed. It saddens and infuriates me. I have a great hatred for the Russians in their present guise. But my grandmother, great-grandmother from both lines are Russian. And this is not a present-day problem, it stretches back many centuries.
One of the reasons for slow Ukrainization is that everyone is trying to whiten Russians because of that mixed blood. If it hadn’t happened, in 2014 we would have realized everything much sooner. And Ukrainianization would proceed at a faster pace.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Olha Verkalets | Translation: Diana Bevtsyk
“I secretly thought it would be better for a shell to hit us than I would go to an unknown place alone with my children and without my husband,” this is a story of a woman from Kyiv who is fleeing the war for the second time