How did the conflict in Syria prepare a surgeon to save lives in Ukraine?


Published on: Tuesday, May 10, 2022 – 08:27 | Last update: Tuesday, May 10, 2022 – 08:27

says Dr. Munther Yazigi “For my wife and children, it’s very scary. I lost a lot of friends and colleagues, and I’m lucky to be alive.”
The Dr is gone. Yaziji has many wars and disasters. He has seven children and a daughter is pregnant with his first grandson, but his mind remains preoccupied with the suffering of others far from home.
He told the BBC: “I told my family I couldn’t stay here in Texas and watch my colleagues in Ukraine go through what they’re going through. It’s my duty as a doctor and my fracture.”
The Russian invasion caused great unrest. The United Nations reports that more than 12 million people have been displaced, of whom 5.8 million have left for other countries.
Dr. Yazigi decided to travel in the opposite direction: advising, operating and assisting in besieged Ukrainian cities. However, the civilian surgeon’s lifestyle does not prepare him to deal with the horrific injuries caused by war, so basic Dr. Yazji.

Dr. Yaziji spoke to the BBC about the challenges a doctor faces in the combat zone and how his previous experiences in Syria have prepared him to face it all.
The story repeats itself

“It’s like history repeating itself here. The Ukrainian people are going through what the Syrian people have been going through before,” says Dr. Yaziji.

Yaziji completed his medical studies in Syria and the UK. Arrived in the United States in 1998, he became a few years later one of the first to respond to the call of disaster areas.
In Syria, he felt his work on the battlefield was personal. He co-founded the Federation of Medical Care and Relief Organizations in 2012 and participated in more than 30 relief operations in Syria during the civil war.

says Dr. Yaziji is committed to the oath he took when he became a doctor, which is to help those in need, regardless of nationality or race. He has done this three times in Ukraine since the start of the war, as he has experience of treating patients under bombardment.
“When I was in Syria, a missile exploded on the second floor of the hospital, he says. I called my wife with a satellite phone, but I did not tell her that I would not survive. I told him that I love you. Take care of the children.

Fortunately, it was not a final farewell, as he was able to return safely to his family in the United States.
The nature of modern warfare, based on long-range artillery bombardment and the use of drones and ballistic missiles, means that even those not directly involved in battles are not safe.
And realizes Dr. Yazigi says the more he visits the battlefields, the more likely he is to be injured or killed, but he is determined to press on.
“My life is not more important than theirs, he says. Saving someone’s life is saving the world for me. Feeling that I am part of a mission bigger than me makes me feel feel at peace.”
During his first visit to Ukraine in March, a missile attack took place near his residence.
“The whole place was shaking, he said. When you hear the sirens and the explosions, you’re terrified.”

Nevertheless, he continued his work as planned and prepared an infrastructure study.
He began to assess the necessary treatments, equipment and local doctors who could join them.
During his second trip to Ukraine, d. Yazji has equipped three clinics in the cities of kyiv, Lviv and Lutsk.
Six operations per day
On his third visit last month to Ukraine, he traveled to the east of the country and performed operations, sometimes six operations a day.
“We have to do a lot of complicated operations, he said. One of them lost the back of his shoulder and was hit in the chest and arms.”
The person who fell victim to the Russian bombardment survived thanks to the efforts of Dr. Yaziji.
Operations must be carried out even when there is not much electricity or water available.

find dr. Yaziji: Treating people injured by airstrikes is particularly difficult, as some of the injured suffer from multiple injuries, such as broken bones, burns and even loss of body parts.
He says even civilian doctors who have worked in emergency departments for years may be surprised by the severity of casualties in war zones.
If you’re not in a war zone, you won’t see such injuries, so you need to treat them in a special way that’s different from what you learned in medical school.
From Syria to Ukraine
In parts of eastern Ukraine, doctors and nurses fled with those fleeing to reach safe areas, while those who remained were exhausted.
Dr. Yazigi supervises them and encourages them to use new treatment techniques.
says Dr. Yazigi, “In a hospital in eastern Ukraine, we met an orthopedic surgeon who wanted to perform an operation he had never done before, so we encouraged him and we were very happy when he succeeded.”
There is a shortage of everything, even the usual treatments and equipment, but Dr. Yazigi thinks the situation in Syria has been worse in some ways.

“The government in Ukraine continues to operate and control things. In Syria, we had to smuggle doctors and medicine into the besieged towns,” says Dr Yazigi.
His bitter experience there made him reluctant to give the names of hospitals or towns where he worked.
Syrian doctors have suffered heavy losses while doing their duty.
Physicians for Human Rights says 930 medical workers have been killed between 2011 and 2021 in Syria. Among the dead were doctors who worked with Dr. Yaziji.
They were killed while trying to save other people’s lives, says Dr. “It’s the noblest thing in life,” he adds.
Ten Syrian doctors from his organization are now working in Ukraine, and Dr. Yazigi is collaborating with David Knott, a famous British surgeon with experience in war trauma surgery, to train Ukrainian doctors.
Documenting war crimes
Among other tasks carried out by Dr. Yazigi trains Ukrainian doctors to document violations that can be considered war crimes, such as the bombing of hospitals and health facilities, the use of chemical weapons or the deliberate bombardment of civilians.

says Dr. Yaziji, a doctor’s assessment of an injury and what caused it is very important. The doctors are the first to arrive, so they are also witnesses.
The World Health Organization documents attacks targeting healthcare facilities in Ukraine.
In the first six weeks alone, there were 103 attacks on medical facilities and 73 people were killed, and the number has been rising since then.
Doctors who performed an autopsy on bodies exhumed from mass graves north of kyiv found evidence that some women had been raped before they were murdered.
Dr. is directed. Yazigi addresses his colleagues in the profession: “I tell doctors that it is your responsibility to help, otherwise you help the killer escape punishment.”
“I’ll be back”
After returning from Ukraine, d. Yazigi spoke with doctors in front for a long time via the Internet and the telephone.
And his thoughts remain occupied with the people he saw at the front.
“It’s not like I saw them on the news. I was with them and treated some of them. When I come home I can’t stop thinking about them. Some of them are gone, it breaks my heart,” he said.

He adds: Some of the injured will never return to a normal life, and many of them will need years of treatment to recover from the consequences of losing their limbs or to overcome the setbacks they have suffered.
However, Dr. Yazji says he is determined to help Ukrainians in the long term.
He adds: “When the receptionist at the hotel found out what I was doing, she hugged me. They told me at the hotel that they would put me up for free. But Dr. Yazigi kind of paid the bill.
He continued, “When I left, they started crying. The atmosphere became full of emotions. I promised them that I would come back.”

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