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‘Life or Death’: A Ukrainian Trauma Surgeon Fights for Lives Amidst Russian War

by Joshua Brown
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Petro Nikitin is a 59-year-old doctor who works in a military hospital in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. He spends his days repairing and treating soldiers injured in a war that takes place far away. Petro’s job is incredibly important and demanding of his attention.

Nikitin said he only does surgery now and nothing else. His children and wife have moved away from him, so he lives alone and focuses on treating people who are injured. According to some sources, since Russia started attacking Ukraine more than a year ago, over 100,000 Ukrainian troops have either died or been hurt.

There are some people who need to go on operating tables in a hospital, located in Ukraine. This hospital has a small medical staff since the doctors were sent to other hospitals that are closer to the battlefield. Because of safety issues, Big Big News does not reveal the name of this Ukrainian hospital.

On February 25, 2022, the day after Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Nikitin posted a photo of himself on Facebook. In the photo, he was listening to an Israeli doctor who specialized in treating wounds caused by bullets. He had quickly set up a sort of online class for doctors from around the world with the help of an international organization that focuses on taking care of people with injuries due to war or other dangerous situations.

Nikitin said that none of us had experienced so many traumas before. He realized that gunshot wounds were very rare because he couldn’t remember the last time he removed a bullet. During this difficult time, Nikitin became familiar with different kinds of injuries caused by explosive weapons like landmines, artillery shells and grenades which harm multiple body parts at the same time.

Dr. Nikitin works in a military hospital in Kyiv, which is the best trauma center for people with severe injuries. When they get here, they usually have broken legs, chests, stomachs and arms all at once and Dr. Nikitin has to decide quickly which injury is most important to take care of first. Patients come to this hospital after being stabilized at a field hospital in the front line before their transfer to Kyiv.

The doctor said that his team doesn’t save lives like the medics do, but rather they try to help people have a normal life again. Healing wounds that include damage to nerves, veins or bones are the trickiest ones for the surgical team and in some cases, they make the painful decision of having to amputate someone’s arm or leg. This is a difficult moral decision which can be hard to do.

The doctor explained that when a patient has to go through an operation that leads to them having a disability, no one enjoys it. It can be difficult for both the person and the surgeon since they are dealing with emotional stress.

Nikitin usually arrives at the hospital at 7:45 in the morning and sometimes doesn’t get to leave until 11 p.m. In March 2022, his wife and children needed to flee Ukraine because of the Russian army coming close to Kyiv. He went with them, but then came back after they’d reached the border. Because some battles might happen between the Ukrainian and Russian armies, he now does about three surgeries each day instead of many more.

Recently, the doctor treated many patients who had been injured in battles occurring in different parts of Ukraine – such as Bakhmut, Donetsk Province, Chernihiv, and Sumy Provinces. One soldier who received a medical operation was Mykyta (last name omitted because of military rules). He is from Bakhmut and was hurt in his lower leg while fighting. Shortly after his surgery he had his 20th birthday!

Mykyta, the young soldier, remembered Bakhmut being on fire and all destroyed when he saw it last. This left a terrible image in his mind because this was the city where he grew up. Even though his wound wasn’t very bad compared to others, he might still lose his lower leg, as said by Nikitin.

The doctors tried to fix Mykyta’s wound by putting skin on it, but it didn’t work. On Tuesday they tried again and the surgeon said he felt hopeful that this time it would be successful. However, we won’t know if it worked until three weeks later. If it doesn’t work then Mykyta will need an amputation. In addition, he has a missing section of bone that measures about 8 inches long which needs to be replaced- this can take more than half a year.

The doctor said that in seven months, he can tell us if the person will be able to walk again. David Rising has shared about this story and there is information about the war in Ukraine on the website https://bigbignews.net/russia-ukraine.

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