The Lord is close to the broken-hearted

As the number of casualties increases in the intensive conflict in the Donbas in east Ukraine the demand on surgeons is very heavy. They are treating thousands of people, both military personnel and civilians, who have life-changing and life-threatening injuries. These surgeons are thankful for the help of world-renowned war surgeon, Dr David Nott, who has spent time near the front-line training surgeons in conflicted related surgery. Within range of Russian rockets David calmly carries out a complicated skin graft which helps save the leg of a woman who suffered catastrophic injuries in a Russian shelling attack. Midway through the procedure David hands over to a Ukrainian surgeon saying, “Here, you do it.” During his week in Ukraine David has trained 70 local doctors.

On this, his second visit to Ukraine since the war began, David’s aim is to pass on some of his knowledge and surgical experience. He says, “I know what it’s like to be under fire. I know what it’s like to be in an operating theatre which is being shelled.” Some who attended the intensive three-day course are front-line doctors, momentarily returning from the fighting in the eastern Donbas region. David teaches the Ukrainian doctors complex surgical techniques – such as how to deal with blood loss, how to quickly assess and stabilise a patient in the first few minutes, plastic surgery, and amputations.  One doctor said that, too often, they don’t have enough medical expertise or experience to keep people alive when they arrive at field hospitals with catastrophic injuries. Orthopaedic surgeon, Oleksi Horehliad, says, “It’s very stressful, not only for patients but for doctors too. It’s just a disaster for me.”

One of the most rewarding things for David is that surgeons are already putting complex techniques learned on his course into practise. “It’s been amazing,” he says, “I’ve just had a message from a doctor who’s done his first ever thoracotomy to save a patient’s life by making an incision into the heart thanks to the training he had two days ago. He’s now back on the front line in Donbas under severe conditions and sent me a photograph to say, ‘Look what I’ve done, David, I’ve done exactly what you’ve been teaching us.’”

David is a Christian and is committed to putting into practice the teaching of Jesus. David also knows that there are deep unseen wounds that men, women, and children who have experienced the trauma of war bear. Only God can heal those wounds as well as the physical wounds. The Psalmist says, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

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