Dr. Victor Starenkiy is forced by his work to live in a basement that is used as a bunker and that he shares with children and families. It is there that they take refuge at night or when the bombs fall closer. The rest of the time Starenkiy has no choice but to act as a kind of medicine trapeze artist. Even though he is a oncologist, also works as a laboratory technician, CT specialist, and does chemotherapy. The reason is that, in his hospitalthe last in Kharkiv specialized in treating cancer, medical personnel can now be counted on the fingers of one hand. In total, there are five doctors and four nurses.
“Many of our workers have gone to other cities and countries, and some cannot get to the hospital because their cities are controlled by the troops of Russia& rdquor ;, Sergei Artiukh, the director of the center, interrupts him. “My house is also in an area where there are clashes and that is why since the first day of the war I have lived and worked in our clinic & rdquor ;, he clarifies. “There are many of us who live here & rdquor ;, he continues.
It is not the only problem for doctors. “Another complication is that we don’t have a second linear accelerator (a device used to give radiotherapy to cancer patients), and the one we have is the only one available to serve the entire population of southeastern Mexico. Ukraine”, says Artiukh. “In addition to this, we also have difficulties in obtaining drugs for chemotherapythey are expensive, they have to come from western Ukraine, and that is why many times patients look for them on their own, they buy them themselves & rdquor ;, says Starenkiy, adding that, for this reason, from time to time they ask for help from networks of civil resistance operating in the city.
“We need help”
Still, in the hospital, before the war, about 120 patients a day were attended; now they are never more than 50. “It is very difficult & rdquor ;, says Starenkiy. But “the first days were the most complicated. We had to go out looking for food because there was none. That was the first & rdquor ;, she explains. “Now we are a little better because we have managed to reactivate the machines that do the CT scans and other tests that we did before the war. But we need help, any help & rdquor ;, she says, telling that he plans to draw up a list of materials they need most urgently to get help from other parts of the country or abroad.
In the meantime, the doctors They say they will resist as best they can. Little by little, they have become accustomed to this difficult reality and try, in their free time, to kill time with activities in the clinic that help them not to think about what is happening, about the conditions in which they work and about the constant noise of the bombs that fall all day and with more intensity in the afternoons and nights. “We do ordinary things. We clean the park, we plant seeds, we cook, we go around the city and we help people who live in Kharkov & rdquor ;, says Starenkiy, being distracted by a squirrel that is nibbling on a nut.
Aleksey Rasuk is 72 years old and, before he retired, he worked at one of the power plants electricity from the city. He explains that it is very difficult to be sick in the middle of a war and is thankful that the doctors have not left. Still, it’s a desperate personal situation. “It’s all nonsense & rdquor ;, he says, looking down as a nurse prepares him to put him on the linear accelerator where his radiotherapy will be done.
Not only for Aleksey, the doctors at the oncology hospital are his saviors. Seeing Starenkiy walking in the hospital garden, a woman rushes to hug him and showers him with compliments. “He is a very good doctor, he has done the blood tests he needed, he helped me a lot. Thank God we have doctors like this. Glory to Ukraine & rdquor ;, she tells him, shaking.
And it is also that in Ukraine doctors wage a war in which their work is not respected. At the time of writing this report, there had been some 180 attacks against hospitals, health personnel, ambulances and vehicles transporting medical products since the beginning of the war (last February). Attacks in which some 73 people died, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). Not even children’s hospitals and maternity hospitals have managed to get rid of these dangers. In March it was the case of the children’s hospital of Mariupolan attack in which several civilians, including children, were killed and wounded.