War. Stories from Ukraine

Ukrainians tell stories about their life during the war

“In Kyiv, doctors’ shifts last weeks rather than days”, Oksana Sirenko, 37, Kyiv

by | 21 March 2022 | Kyiv

On the first day of the war, Oksana Sirenko woke up because of blasts. The 37-year-old pediatrician-neonatologist worked with newborns at a private medical center in Kyiv. “I immediately called the chief physician of our Children’s Unit. It turned out that I was the only pediatrician left, and there were still children at the hospital. So I decided to go to work,” recalls Oksana. During the day, she examined and discharged all the patients as their health was changing for the better. 

Oksana’s neighbors suggested moving to a village near Kyiv together, hoping that it would be safer there. They picked Oksana up from the clinic. The woman took her emergency bag with her papers and a minimal amount of stuff. She counted on being back home in a few days. They lived in a village near Kyiv for a week, and then her co-workers recommended evacuating to a safer place if she could. So they decided to move to Lviv. The journey took them two days. First they stayed at their acquaintance’s house. Later on, Oksana rented an apartment. 

In Lviv, Oksana found out that Okhmatdyt, the children’s hospital, needed doctors, so she applied there. “The chief interviewed me and took me on. I didn’t expect to be hired so soon,” Oksana admits. “The staff are friendly, they welcomed me very well.” 

Oksana works at the neonatal intensive care unit. Some of the children there need surgery and can’t breathe or eat independently. At the beginning of the war, children from the Kyiv Okhmatdyt were evacuated to Lviv. But by the time Oksana started her job, they had all been transferred to other hospital units. Today, they generally receive newborns from the Lviv Region, but not from Kharkiv, Kyiv, or Chernihiv. Children in critical conditions from other cities are brought to the nearest hospitals as they require urgent treatment. 

“They recently brought a child from Ivano-Frankivsk. We performed a difficult heart surgery. Surgeons from Lviv and the Kyiv Center for Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery worked on saving the girl. Now her condition is stable,” says Oksana Sirenko. 

Nowadays the doctor’s working hours are longer and more intense because more children need serious medical help. 

Ohmadyt in Kyiv is still open. It is the biggest children’s hospital in Ukraine. Oksana says that currently, in addition to treating children, the hospital receives injured people. “Not all patients are transportable, and we haven’t managed to evacuate all of them, so the hospital is working,” Oksana says. “I recently talked to my colleagues from Kyiv. Their shifts last weeks rather than days now. Some of them have stayed at the hospital since the beginning of the war, since February 24.” 

Oksana Sirenko notes that there are more cases of premature delivery these days because women are under constant stress. She keeps in touch with her patients from Kyiv and gives consultations for free. 

On weekends, Oksana works as a volunteer. Her nephew had gone on a business trip to Poland before the war started. He works there, raises money, and sends it to Oksana to buy medicine. The woman sorts it and sends it to the Chernihiv Region. She also has to arrange the delivery because of problems with the mail. “Unfortunately, we can’t buy all the medicine here in Ukraine,” the doctor adds. 

Oksana’s parents, her brother and his wife, and many other relatives are still in the Chernihiv Region. They are far from Chernihiv, which has been under siege and suffering from russian shelling for a few weeks. But her parents are in danger, too.

“A missile recently hit the local grammar school, and another one landed on a private house. They haven’t had any problems with food yet. Electricity is unstable, on and off. There is no medicine either, no Nurofen, no Ibuprofen, no Paracetamol. There was a six-month-old baby with a high fever, so they managed to find a pill for adults and dosed it somehow”. 

Before the war, Oksana Sirenko bought her own apartment in Kyiv. “I was planning to renovate it. Now I think about different things. I don’t care about renovations anymore. The first thing I want to do when I get back is see all my loved ones. I just want simple things,” the woman confesses. “I want quiet workdays. I want to rebuild my city. I haven’t seen Kyiv since the beginning of the war. So I just imagine how it will be renewed. I want to go back home.” 

Translated by Inna Voloska

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