Coming to terms with war trauma in Ukraine
Yurii Melnyk, a physical therapist from Lviv, Ukraine, said that before Russia’s war against Ukraine, he would see seven patients a day. Today the number can be as many as 30. Melnyk was among medical professionals from Ukraine who visited U.S. medical facilities over the past year. During those visits, U.S. and Ukraine officials shared their expertise about treating wounded veterans and civilians. Here is a sampling of the exchanges, organized by the Congressional Office for International Leadership with support from the U.S. State Department. Most included visits to medical facilities operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Fourteen people from Ukraine visited the Tampa VA facility in Florida in January. The facility offers intensive trauma care to veterans dealing with multiple injuries. That includes brain injuries, amputations and spinal cord injuries.
“We wanted them [Ukrainian delegates] to take away some basic knowledge of these catastrophic injuries … and the fact that many of them do improve, many of them do get better,” Steven Scott, the hospital’s chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation, told WUSF public radio.
Taras Voloshyn was among five Ukrainian physicians who visited hospitals in Baltimore. Voloshyn noted that many of the patients he treats suffer from blast injuries. “We are trying to save their limbs,” he said.
Kritis Dasgupta, a physician at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore, explained how medical professionals learned from each other. “It’s an honor for us to show what we do, share with them our expertise in this area, and learn what is their approach to care, and give them things which will help all the patients back in Ukraine,” Dasgupta said.
In the country’s heartland, Century College in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and the Protez Foundation in Minneapolis offered training in prosthetics to 20 Ukrainian health professionals. “We have a lot of experience, but we want to be better for our patients,” said Olha Shchehliuk, who works with rehabilitating patients in Kyiv.
Yakov Gradinar, a native of Ukraine who founded Protez, said, “It’s very important for us to help as much as we can.”
Meanwhile in Texas, eight Ukrainian medical professionals visited the VA facility in San Antonio in May. Serhii Kolisnyk, a physician from Vinnytsia, and his colleagues toured the prosthetic lab and discussed recreation therapies. “We have a big population and every family, every child, every woman, every combatant has some signs of PTSD,” Kolisnyk said, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder.
“This experience was very beneficial and fruitful for us because we have a lot of complex traumas like spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injures, burns and blinded persons,” Kolisnyk said. The war creates 300 amputees each day, according to Tetiana Lomakina, a presidential policy adviser from Mariupol who participated in the delegation. When the exchange concluded, the Ukrainians sang their national anthem to the American hosts. “I admire you and your country so much, and we hope we helped, not only with the knowledge we imparted, but the partnership and love that went into creating this program,” said Julianne Flynn, the South Texas VA executive director.