Chernihiv hospital: “Wounds that we did not know before the war”


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Status: 05/05/2022 11:27

In the hospital in the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, there are patients who survived Russian air raids and are now scarred for life. A young doctor talks about his day-to-day job – and the injuries his studies left him unprepared for.

By Markus Preiß, studio ARD Brussels, currently Chernihiv

Ihor Handoga longs for a break. It doesn’t have to be anything big, no travel – just a few days at home, drinking coffee in the sun. “I’ve been living more or less in the hospital since the start of the war,” says the young doctor. “Especially at the beginning we worked day and night”. Handoga works at City Hospital Number 2 in the Ukrainian town of Chernihiv, near the Belarusian border.

Marcus Preiss

As he strolls down the halls, the 34-year-old says his medical studies have only partially prepared him for what he has been through for the past two months. “We saw a lot of injuries that we didn’t know about before the war. Mines, for example – on the legs and the amen; severe open fractures, amputations…just really big injuries.”

In theory, of course, he knew what to do, he said. But first you have to deal with it psychologically, be so focused that you only see the anatomical structure: arteries, veins, ligaments and tissues – not those shocking injuries.

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“I only felt pain”

The 72-year-old retiree, Katja, was also unprepared. She’s on the fourth floor of the hospital. The little finger is missing from each of his hands. And then she discovers the blankets – the lower left leg has also been amputated. “On March 16, I was online to buy bread,” she says. “None of us noticed the plane. And then it hit us. I only felt pain. Everyone was on the ground.”

Several people died in this bombardment. Katya was lucky. It was still traumatic. She saw his shin, lots of blood. A taxi driver took her to the hospital. Again and again he spoke to her during the trip. “He wanted me to stay conscious.” He also asked what her name was. “He wanted a name,” she said, “so he would know who to tell if I die in his car.”

Sweet smell of wounds in the air

There are many fates like Katja’s in Chernihiv. After the failure of the march on kyiv, Russian troops retreated across the border to Belarus. But the wounds of war have been hurting and festering here for a long time.

There is a sweet smell in the air in Oleg’s room. The bandage on the leg has green, yellow and dark red-brown spots. Oleg was also injured in an air raid: “We were having dinner. Then the bombs came.” Her son tried to stop the bleeding with “a braid” made of towels. “I knew right away that I was disabled.

View in a treatment room in the hospital number 2 of the city of Chernihiv.

He never believed that Russian troops would ever settle in his hometown – “not even when they moved to the border in January”. And then it happened: “They bombed, burned everything. There is no forgiveness from me – God will judge them.”

Ihor Handoga is working on Oleg being at least able to move around on his own again. He will operate again soon. The doctor is optimistic that Oleg can do it on crutches. For Katja, 72, this is probably no longer possible. “I’m lying here on the fourth floor – I won’t be able to go out on my own anymore,” she said. But at least she can hold a spoon again – even without her little fingers.

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