“As soon as Russia invaded, we started seeing the wounded”

After troops crossed Ukraine’s borders in March 2022, Igor Belkin, a surgeon from Zaporizhzhia, watched our translated war surgery videos in a bid to better treat devastating wounds inflicted by the war. Last month, Igor furthered his skills and training during our latest HEST course in Ukraine.

Faculty Trainers in Zaporizhzhia and Lviv: Professor David Nott, Dr Pete Mathew, Dr Ammar Darwish, Dr Rachael Craven, Dr Ian Nesbitt.

“On the night of the 7th of May, the first attack on our hospital took place. Hospital walls and communications were damaged,” shared Igor. “After that, the shelling of Orikhov became even more intense. The hospital was shelled again later in May, which led to it being evacuated.”

Igor was forced to transfer to a military hospital in the field to continue treating the injured. Right from the beginning of the war, he and his team were faced with severe trauma injuries – many of which they had never seen before. Patients with internal and external damage caused by blasts, penetrating wounds and severe burns were entering their doors for the first time.

“I decided I needed to study combat trauma. A medical colleague told me about videos made by Professor David Nott.”

Armed with life-saving tools

Just days after Russia’s invasion, we ran a 12-hour surgical training course on zoom with former consultant neurosurgeon and author, Dr Henry Marsh. Together, David and Henry trained 573 Ukrainian surgeons, giving them surgical techniques, tools and tips for treating a range of traumatic war wounds. It was only when David lost his voice 12 hours in that the training stopped.

As attention started to mount around our online training, we created a series of surgical training videos in a bid to reach even more doctors in need of life-saving skills.

“It (the video series) was very informative, clear and concise. In just a few hours of viewing I grasped the main fields of trauma medicine – damage control and important techniques for cardiovascular surgery.”

Upskilling 114 Ukrainian doctors

Last month, David and a team of our trainers travelled to Zaporizhzhia and Lviv to deliver our HEST course. 114 doctors and anaesthetists were empowered with the knowledge needed to treat neurological, plastics, vascular, cardiothoracic, paediatric, orthopaedic and abdominal trauma cases – creating a powerful network of multi-skilled surgeons.

“I was very pleased to attend this course and meet David personally. I got very concise, practical information and was able to practice my skills and learn how to provide assistance in areas of medicine I don’t specialise in.

I’m grateful to David, his entire team, and the foundation for sharing their great experience and imparting their knowledge of medicine in war zones”

Before the course, I used to use a technique called a lateral thoracotomy which involves turning the wounded onto their side (entering the chest from the side). Given the fact that chest injuries can make patients very unstable, this sort of movement could worsen conditions.

Now, I only do thoracotomies while patients are on their backs. This is a far better method for both surgeons and anaesthetists to approach trauma injuries.

I also learned how to use external fixations to secure bones and now perform fasciotomies on patients needing urgent pressure release in the limbs.

This sort of knowledge, acquired from experienced frontline doctors like David and the team, will help me and my fellow Ukrainian doctors save more lives.”

We’re committed to training and instilling confidence in Ukraine’s doctors until the war is over.

Help us train others like Igor