Tributes have been paid to staff at Cork University Hospital (CUH) after they performed surgery and provided rehabilitation to enable a young Ukrainian soldier to walk and talk again after he was wounded while fighting Russian forces in his homeland.
Voytek Bialek of the NGO Together-Razem said that it was thanks to the treatment and care that 24-year-old Myroslav (Myroslav’s surname is being withheld for security reasons) received at CUH over the past three months that he has been able to start on the road to recovery.
“Myroslav comes from Novograd-Volynskiy, a city in the Zhytomyr region of northern Ukraine. After school, he did his stint in the military service and had been working in a company as a security guard but on February 24th, Russia invaded Ukraine and the next day he was called up to defend Ukraine.”
Mr Bialek explained that on April 15th, Myroslav was wounded while fighting in a small village near the Kharkiv region in the northeast and he was rushed to hospital where he spent 15 days unconscious in intensive care in the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine.
“Myroslav’s mother, Liudmila, was informed that he had been injured but she was oblivious to his whereabouts. She was left waiting for two whole days before knowing whether or not her son was alive,” he said.
Myroslav had suffered a serious head wound which left him paralysed on the right side of his body and completely unable to speak, and he was being treated at the Central Hospital in the western city of Lviv when on May 7th he was given the opportunity to receive treatment abroad, he said.
Mr Bialek explained that Myroslav was still in a critical condition when he was transported on board a special military flight from Poland to Cork; he was admitted to CUH, where doctors began intensive treatment and prescribed a rehabilitation programme for him.
“It was in Cork that the extent of Myroslav’s injuries was discovered – fragments from the bomb explosion in the trench where he had been were stuck inside his skull, but doctors decided not to perform any immediate operations as it was too dangerous.”
Mr Bialek explained that it was at this point that Together-Razem, which provides a range of social, civic, psychological and counselling services to the Polish community on Leeside, became involved and assisted Myroslav’s mother, Liudmila, when she came to Cork to be with her son.
“We were there to give one-on-one support for them both, facilitated by Svetlana Zakharova, our very own Ukrainian immigrant support worker. Svetlana provided emotional and psychological support not just to Myroslav, but also to his mother, being a familiar friendly face here for her.
“Additionally, we offered vital information services from our staff, available in English and Ukrainian, to help inform Liudmila of her rights and opportunities for her and Myroslav during their time here when she was naturally very concerned about her son’s condition but also her own wellbeing.
“We provided them with a laptop, which is a practical and valuable resource to help keep them connected, informed, educated and entertained. Most importantly, thanks to our specialisation in trauma counselling, Myroslav and his mother were provided with counselling sessions to help them try to come to terms with their lived experiences and grow into a new life, a new beginning.”
According to Ms Zakharova, doctors at CUH performed further surgery on Myroslav on September 22nd, when surgeons inserted a titanium plate to replace part of a bone in his skull which had been damaged, and the surgery enabled the wound in his head to close.
“The operation was a success and since doctors were able to close the wound in his skull, Myroslav has begun to improve. While his right arm is still paralysed, he can now walk with the aid of a stick and he can speak, not full sentences yet, but words and can make himself understood,” she said.
Myroslav and Liudmila decided to return home and they left Cork in October but, before they did, they expressed their deep gratitude to all the staff at Cork University Hospital and to the Irish people for their help and support, said Mr Bialek.
“Thanks to the help and the support of CUH and the work done by Svetlana on behalf of Together-Razem, Myroslav and Liudmila were welcomed and supported in Ireland, before returning home to Ukraine – this help will never be forgotten,” he said.