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The Soldier and the Doctor: A story from the front lines

Oleh Dynka, call sign “Yeger”
Article by: Yan Osoka
Translated by: Jeffrey D. Stephaniuk
Edited by: Christine Chraibi

The pain could be relieved somewhat if he stared at the sky. It would recede deep behind the coping mechanisms of consciousness, gnawing at the spot where the bullet struck. The pain didn’t seem so daunting and consuming if he focused his gaze upon the lazy clouds. He could become nearly oblivious to the hot and sticky liquid flowing from his side.

He looked to the sky: while they carried him on the stretcher, while they ran with him to the ambulance, while he could catch glimpses of little ribbons of blue and white. He looked skyward, coveting within himself what he had left of the warmth of last summer’s suntan, contrasted with the leaves cast about by the wind, the autumn colours of the poplar trees. He longed to retain his memories of summer, to remember, and remember…

He felt the pain once more when they placed him in the ambulance: raging and sharp, biting within and outside his body. Inside the ambulance it was stuffy and tight, with people frantically at work: bandaging the wound, starting an IV, holding his hand, speaking something to him. Their words pushed back the darkness threatening to overwhelm his mind. People’s voices seemed to be echoing from the other side of the earth. They sounded further and further away, but kept repeating the same message: don’t fall asleep, don’t go away, hang on just a little bit longer; voices of reassurance, certain that the ride won’t be much longer, that in no time the surgeons would be taking care of him, and that everything would be just fine.

He made a weak attempt to respond to the voices. Numbness crept slowly around the wound. And from the wound there began to radiate a chill, its tentacles creeping throughout the rest of the body, his muscles, and veins, and thoughts. The sharp pain became dull, pushing him towards a deep fatigue, as if he had just run several kilometres. Meanwhile, the vehicle flew along the road and stopped suddenly in front of the hospital. They carefully removed him from the back, into the building, and raced along the brightly lit corridor towards the operating room.

All this time the voices kept up their sound, calming him down, begging, shouting, crying, promising him that he only needed to endure all this for just a little while longer; they kept telling him that it wouldn’t be long…

Once again he acknowledged the voices. Then, he fell asleep…

Photo gallery of Ukrainian soldiers killed, died or re-buried in September, 2017

The doctor sat outside on the steps, silent as he smoked a cigarette, looking desperately at his shaking hands. He was a young doctor, had already sat on these steps many times before, his hospital scrubs splattered with blood. His habit was to sit quietly, smoke a cigarette, even when his colleagues were out there, too.

There were times he’d become so distracted that the cigarette would just burn in the wind, and he’d be left holding the stub, head bowed, gazing at the ground. His was the stare of a young man who’d already lived the life of an older man.

As he sat, his thoughts returned to the doubts about whether he’d done everything possible, whether he’d made no fatal mistake. Still, it only took a moment, when the heart monitor showed a flat line and the patient didn’t respond to the defibrillator… that moment before entering the operating room, the moment of his biological death. Not only did that split second take the life of the patient lying on the table, it also took one more piece of the doctor’s soul. He had fought to the very end for this man’s life, and lost.

And so the war continues… in the trenches, and in the hospitals, both large and small…. in the ambulances and in the intensive care units. The main weapons now are not only the semi-automatic rifles, but also scalpels and medicines. The enemy can be defeated not only with bullets, but with cunning and speed, by escaping from him with the wounded, compelling the lifeblood to beat once again in the veins of our fighters.

The doctors, nurses and medical personnel responsible for this sector of defence are accomplishing the impossible. Yet even they don’t always succeed. Some wounds are overwhelming, and even a short delay becomes life threatening. Sometimes one’s vital organs are badly damaged. That’s when all that’s left is to come outside on these steps and smoke a cigarette, holding it in hands that fail to obey you; when even men weep and cry; when those who work ceaselessly to save a life prefer to sit alone in a secluded corner, avoiding eye contact with others.

When a great emptiness is felt inside…

When the monotone flat line races across the monitor…

Photo gallery of Ukrainian soldiers killed, died or re-buried in October, 2017


Вічна Пам’ять!  Eternal Memory!

Герої не вмирають!  Heroes Never Die!


Translated by: Jeffrey D. Stephaniuk
Edited by: Christine Chraibi
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