‘I gave birth to babies because people died around us’

On February 24, my wife and I woke up at 6 in the morning from my wife’s sister’s phone. She and her husband live in the northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine, and we live in the southeast. He had earlier heard the sound of explosions there.

No one really believed it would be a Russian invasion, so the situation in the hospital where I work as an obstetrician and gynecology resident—the Kyiv Regional Perinatal Center—accelerated.

The hospital had underground basements for expectant mothers and began to function as a mini-hospital with limited space and no windows. Unfortunately, women don’t have that much space to move around and the underground rooms only have a makeshift restroom, which is not the most comfortable for expectant mothers. I counted about 30 to 35 pregnant women while I worked there, but the rooms where the women live are separated from the delivery room so that the expectant mothers don’t see other deliveries. that can cause anxiety; There is already stress, and the labor process can be painful and go on for some time. The doctor always explained that there was no need to worry, but that the child probably understood what was going on, so we suggested that they talk to their child to calm them down. That way they could focus on the delivery and not on the outside sounds.

I assisted underground during childbirth, we had to make sure we were aware of the passage of time; Make sure the process of labor doesn’t go too quickly or too slowly.

But we had multiple deliveries that were a problem because of the stress, and where the woman had another type of illness, so we had an increased number of caesarean sections (C-sections). Because C-section is an operation, an operating room (OR) has to be used and we could not organize an underground one. I assisted with several of these C-sections, but we had to perform them in a routine operation room above ground, even if there were explosions.

Dr. Serhi Frolov has assisted with C-section deliveries since the start of the Russo-Ukraine War in February 2022. Pictured here working before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Dr. Serhi Frolovy

The oar windows were closed with sandbags and cloth on top, so there was a sense of working at night using only artificial light. The unconscious patient would be brought to the OR and we would work quickly to deliver the baby, but we had to make sure we didn’t do anything too early after he was born. If we do not suture the uterine wall properly, the mother may experience bleeding later. But, we tried to execute the process in 30 minutes or less so that the woman could be brought underground as soon as possible. The faster we can act, the better, especially if air raid sirens are sounding.

Of course it was intimidating, but we were taking care of patients, so there was little time to think about what could happen and a missile could hit us. At times during these C-section operations we could hear the explosions, but luckily, they seemed farther away. The closest missile hit the Kyiv television tower on March 1, which is just a few blocks from our hospital. The street I hit is the one I usually walk on between public transport and the hospital. That’s why I know roads, houses and even trees. It was bullshit; Five people were killed in that explosion.

During this time, senior doctors, department heads and medical directors kept our spirits up and helped us focus on giving the best care to all of us, rather than checking our messages to see when and where the explosion occurred. helped. Everyone worked together.

In early March, intern doctors like me were allowed to leave if we weren’t originally from Kyiv. The senior doctors were able to take care of the number of patients we had, so we were told we could help but it was not mandatory as we could be useful at our local hospitals.

So my wife and I left Kyiv on March 6. I’m originally from Lviv in the west of Ukraine, so although the journey from Kyiv should have taken six hours, instead, it took us two days, a night spent in our car. I’m here now at my parents’ house and we’ve had some missile strikes, and we have sirens in the evening and at night, but there’s a lot of Ukrainians here traveling and getting help from different countries.

I haven’t had a chance to work here in the hospital yet, but I will. I am also a medical translator, so I am helping to translate a guide for doctors on what should be done at different stages of medical care in case of chemical, biological, nuclear and radiation events. I am translating information from the Global Medical Knowledge Alliance from English to Ukrainian to assist medical professionals in the event of such incidents.

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Although some key areas have been recaptured by Ukraine, there is still a long way to go before we can return to normal life. Buka and the surrounding area are close to the hospital I work in Kyiv. Senior doctors and residents like me who assisted him used to go to the area for operations. It may take some time to understand what really happened there.

A friend of mine who worked in an operational hospital in the Bucha area had to stay in the hospital for more than a week because there was no way to go and the city she lived in was also occupied by the Russian army. It was easy to get to work and be there. She is now gone and taking time off from work because it was extremely stressful.

Earlier, some people were saying that it is not the Russian people, this is what Vladimir Putin is doing, and that we do not need to expel Russian scientists from scientific societies or take other measures when we have to stop the war. But now, following the images of residents killed by Bucha, we see that it is not one person, it is the whole system. Many people are seeing this as pure evil and it has to be fought; Cannot talk through.

Of course, the level at which people are united in Ukraine as a nation is truly impressive. People are helping others they don’t know; They are trying to do whatever they can. I am in touch with an ob-gyn professor working in Kyiv. He doesn’t want to leave the hospital because there are many cases where other doctors need his diagnosis or help in the operation.

Although the situation they are in now isn’t the worst—for example, there is a hospital in Mariupol that was bombed and it no longer exists—they don’t know what to expect because they don’t know what to expect. How long will the war last? They are becoming more and more tired mentally and physically, this is a huge problem.

We can talk about how much has been destroyed and needs to be rebuilt, and I really hope that as soon as this Ukrainian government is over and people figure out how to do it . But that is money, work and time. When we talk about those killed, I am afraid that the result will be seen for a long time. People will have post-traumatic stress disorder, I see it in my colleagues in hospitals. They used to see pain and death at work, but now it’s all around them too.

Dr. Serhey Frolov is a resident of obstetrics and gynecology at the Kyiv Regional Antenatal Center and currently lives in Lviv with his family.

All views expressed in this article are those of the author.

As told to Jenny Howard.

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