British war surgeon trains Ukrainian doctors in conflict medicine

Over the weekend, a well-known British war surgeon practically taught more than 570 Ukrainian doctors and medical professionals how to practice wartime medicine.

David Nott, MBChB, a surgeon at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, showed them how to treat gunshot wounds, fragmentation wounds and blast wounds, among other techniques that many of them have never practiced .

“War surgery is something completely different because you have to have a mindset about war,” Nott told the BBC in an interview. “It’s a completely different ball game, and we’re not trained to do it in this country. Even we in the first world have no idea how to deal with war wounds.”

For some 30 years, Nott treated war-wounded in numerous conflict zones, including Afghanistan, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria, which are detailed in his 2019 memoir. War Doctor: Surgery on the Front Line. Each year, he makes time to work for aid organizations, including Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

On Saturday March 5, he condensed his 5-day surgical training course for working in resource-poor or conflict-affected areas – which usually brings doctors from around the world to the Royal College of Surgeons in the UK – into a 12-hour internship of surgical training.

Nott covered triage, damage control and burn techniques, as well as cardiothoracic, orthopedic, pediatric and plastic surgery sessions. His colleague Henry Marsh, MBChB, a retired neurosurgeon from St. George’s Hospital in London, led the neurosurgical session.

During the virtual course, Ukrainian medical professionals learned “a range of skills that can be used in the face of limited resources, from learning how to create makeshift pelvic girdles to knowing when to operate.” without a scanner,” according to a statement from the David Nott Foundation.

“That’s the only way we can do it right now,” Nott told the BBC. “I can’t go there and operate with them. The beauty is that I understand their situation. I’ve been there. I cower when the bombs come. I’ve worked in underground hospitals. I know what it’s like. is like I know what they will face.

One of the doctors who took the course, who lives in a suburb north of Kyiv, told the BBC he was afraid that he would most likely have to use the training in the days and weeks to come. “If they [were] the order to take Kiev, there is no other way to take it than aerial bombardment,” he said. “There will be mass murder here.

“It’s a disaster,” said the doctor. “I can’t describe my feelings about this. I’m very sad because all these people will have to suffer and die for nothing.”

He said he often heard explosions from air defenses and planes flying overhead, although there had been no shelling in his area for several days. “Most of our hospitals are empty right now,” he said. “A lot of people have already left here.”

Marsh has close ties to Ukraine, having traveled there frequently over the past 3 decades to train Ukrainian surgeons, he told the BBC. He called Ukraine a country “struggling to escape a totalitarian Soviet past” – something he saw reflected in its health system.

“All healthcare systems reflect their society,” Marsh said. “Soviet society was completely monolithic and autocratic, and Ukrainian medicine was the same. It has changed. It yearns for the freedom that we take for granted here.”

He said the conflict affected him personally because “I have a lot of friends in Ukraine. You have this feeling of both horror at what is happening and disgust. What is happening is obscene, it what Putin is doing. And I can’t do much for help, that’s why I was extremely happy when David Nott contacted me because of my Ukrainian connections.”

“I fear that all the information that we shared with them during the day probably becomes horribly relevant,” he said. “This is already the case in places like Mariupol, which has been shattered.”

The World Health Organization has confirmed at least 16 attacks on Ukrainian health facilities since the start of the invasion, which have killed at least nine people.

  • Kristina Fiore leads MedPage’s corporate reporting and investigative team. She has been a medical journalist for over a decade and her work has been recognized by Barlett & Steele, AHCJ, SABEW and others. Send story tips to [email protected] To follow

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