Military medics of Ukraine
Oleksandr Bazelev
Civilian intern doctor

On February 24, I started my duty at my 4th Mariupol hospital. At lunch, the medical director came and asked if there was anyone willing to go to the military hospital to work. I went, it was obligation for me, if not me, then who? Military hospital No. 555 is located in the Kalmius district near the Ilyich plant. Next to “Neptune” swimming pool.
I arrived at the destination, where the commander of the hospital and the commander of the department of anesthesiology and resuscitation met me, I was supposed to work there. I was told what to do. They immediately showed who was assigned to which operating room and where to stand. Explained to me different situations and options for getting out of them. The first: who and what should be done during the entry of wounded soldiers. In the military, everything is much more organized than in the civil service. So every person: a soldier of a hospital, a nurse, a doctor, a service chief is responsible for something. And in order not to disturb the other, everyone knows what he is doing in a particular situation.
In the first days, no one realized that it would be that bad, how bad it was later. The battles were still far away. On the first day, we received 20 wounded soldiers. And then it happened like this: a dozen more every next day.
Everything was remembered: Children who died, Children who were not born, young fighters who supposed to live and live..
We all lived by one long day. The work was non-stop. Medics were not enough. The wounded were constantly being brought. We managed to sleep for a few hours. Then they got up and ran on. The sense of time simply disappeared. You don’t know the number or the date. No day of the week. Due to the fact that there was no connection, the phones simply lay somewhere. And it happened like this: someone says today is Sunday. And you are surprised, as if it was only Monday.
Very quickly, absolutely all medical services that communicated with the hospital from the outside ceased to function. And so it began: all the sick, whom only someone had the opportunity to deliver, were taken to us. These are women, pregnant women, men, children. All are civilians. And all of them arrived in different, often difficult, conditions. It happened that they did not have time to see help. First of all, doctors dealt with the person who has a chance to survive. Cynically. But the war was already on our street.
When it was still possible to drive around the city more or less safely, we took the soldiers after their stabilization to other hospitals. This was called evacuation. The hospital received a huge number of wounded, and not only military, but also civilians. The staff of doctors is limited. And if we didn’t take the operated patients further, we would have run out of places in the first week of work.
In March, we went to hospital No. 3 to organize an anesthesiology service. Before the war, there was an oncology department, a children’s surgery and a maternity ward. That is, there were areas that we did not have enough of. The plan was to locate lightly injured patients who could be cared for by civilian doctors and nurses. It will be easier for us. And there will be care for a large number of patients.
On the first day we arrived there, they began to organize operating rooms in the oncology department. By nightfall, they had already done something. They lay down to rest, there was an opportunity. But they woke up from the impact of artillery. The projectile did not reach us. The windows just shattered from the shock wave. The plaster was everywhere: on the equipment, on us. We quickly started covering the windows with bags.
We have done our work. The operatives were prepared. And in three days there was an airstrike. You’ve all seen the maternity ward in pictures. It was in this 3rd hospital. And the plane bombed not only the maternity hospital, but also other buildings. Nevertheless, we have organized surgical and anesthesia services.

From the first day of the war, our hospital was shelled constantly and in different ways. One day there was shelling from mortars. Was it by accident? I will never believe it. Maybe I don’t understand many things, but shelling one hospital building with mortars, what could be a coincidence? And a few days later, an aerial bomb shelled us. The first in “Neptune” – new swimming pool in the city. The second one – in our hospital. In two minutes.
Military hospital No. 555 was in Mariupol even before the war. So they knew about it. And they destroyed us on purpose, knowing that we were there. They knew that there were wounded inside. They knew that they needed help there. That is why they beat as much as they could. Parts of the hospital buildings were constantly being bitten off.
The most unpredictable thing is an airstrike. Another bomb dropped from the plane flew to the rooms where we usually rested. It was lucky only because we were in the operating room since late at night. There was a lot of work. When it was about to end and everyone thought that they would have a little rest now, an aerial bomb landed in our rest area: the nurse’s, resident ward, where there were beds for doctors to sleep.
Mariupol was unashamedly bombed from everything: shelling from the sea, air bombs dropped from airplanes, artillery of various calibers, and mortars. Every time it’s severed limbs, torn chests and stomachs, shot heads. Everyone’s luck is different.
During the last airstrike, 4 operating tables worked simultaneously in our hospital, that is, an operation was performed on each one. There were two amputations. One soldier was operated on again. His name is Dima. He had a wound received during mortar shelling. And the ceiling, which was there before the impact the ceiling became the floor. At least 4 people remained under the rubble forever.
The plane did not stop flying around the perimeter of the hospital. It was a long time. We heard it all the time. And waited and waited for it to drop something else. Probably, if we didn’t do anything at this time, it would be difficult, and so the first goal was to take out the soldiers who cannot move on their own. And these are not just few people. This is a very large number of postoperative patients, many of whom still cannot move independently. We run, we can bend down, lie down, try to protect ourselves. And they are just on the beds. As they lay before the airstrike, they continued to lie after it and all the time the plane was circling over the hospital. And only we could take them somewhere, try to hide them. No one was left.
And in the process of this rush and analysis of debris, immediately, literally, 20 minutes after the airstrike, an extremely heavy pregnant woman was brought in at the last term of pregnancy. The woman is well-groomed. The man is next to her. He is not wounded. I start working on bringing her out of shock. In addition, she has a shrapnel wound, a fracture of the lower third of the leg with severe bleeding. To stop it, someone managed to put a tourniquet. It should only be on her feet for no more than 2 hours. Then it should be weakened.
The pregnant woman probably had the tourniquet on her leg for much longer than the permissible time. At the initial examination, it is clear that the leg will most likely be amputated. And we are empty. There is nothing left: the operating theaters are all full, the equipment is broken. Have you seen the photos of “Neptune”? Here we have the part that functioned till the end, as it looked after the airstrike.
And we only anesthetized the woman, brought her out of a state of shock, and postponed surgical treatment. Not because we wanted so much. And because we can’t do anything to her with our bare hands. The only thing we could do was to take the woman to a hospital with the first transport that appeared. As soon as they were able to, they began to prepare her for the surgery. But she began to give birth. She gave birth to a dead child. And then she died herself. And such a case is not the only one.

After the airstrike, we spent two days put back things in order. At the same time, new wounded were constantly arriving. There where was surgery activity, nothing left. We simply could not make surgeries. And then the management made a decision to evacuate. Some of the wounded soldiers were taken to Ilyich MMK, some to Azovstal, and doctors went with them. Citizens tried to leave the city on their own.