The Fight to Save Children’s Lives at a Kyiv Hospital

SOfficial figures from TIME show that ixteen Ukrainian children have lost their lives since February 24th, when the Russians invaded. 45 others have been hurt. Many of the wounded are being brought to Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital in the capital Kyiv.

Ukraine’s largest pediatric facility has already evacuated patients with non-life-threatening conditions, but there are several children who cannot be removed from life support. They are increasing in number as the fighting for Ukraine’s capital escalates.

Learn More Here’s What You Can Do to Help People in Ukraine Right Now

According to Vitaly Demidov, there was night shelling around the hospital. Around the hospital buildings are abandoned cars and corpses.

“The saddest thing is that when the siren sounds, we have to go down with the children and parents to the basement,” Demidov tells TIME. “We run five or six times a day in the basement and back.”

According to him, children receiving oxygen support must be able to breathe while they are being moved. This meant that staff needed to work alongside manual ventilators and gurneys.

Since Demidov posted the image to Instagram on February 26, it has become a viral sensation. Demidov is seen with his rifle around his waist as he holds a child on life support. Underneath, he wrote: “’It was very hot tonight. Very few people are aware of this. [sick] children in the hospital, oxygen dependent.”

Voluntary workers have brought food, medicine and supplies. “So far, everyone is provided for,” Demidov posted, “but I don’t know for how long.”

One of the injured is a 10-year-old boy whose sister and parents, both 10 years old, were apparently killed by Russian saboteurs.

One of the other patients is a young boy who sustained shrapnel injuries to his neck in the bombardment on Kyiv. “Due to the severity of the injury, in order for us to stop the bleeding the boy had to undergo surgery right in the admission department of the trauma center of the hospital,” says pediatric surgeon Oleg Godik. He is in critical condition at the moment and has been placed on ventilator.

TIME received photos from Demidov, other staff members at the hospital and showing several children suffering terrible injuries. In one, a young boy’s right cheek has been ripped open. Another shows a teenager girl lying on a gurney, with her legs injured and her pants bloodied. The other shows a small, lifeless child lying on a cardboard cover. Several children, including babies, are seen lying in the hospital’s basement.

Although staff work to help children wounded in conflict, they also treat pre-existing conditions. Amid the shelling, complex surgery was performed on a 15-year-old girl, who arrived four months ago from the Volyn region in Ukraine’s northwest, with a diagnosis of lymphoblastic leukemia.

Vadym Takachuk is the director of the Center for Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery’s intensive care unit. He says the unit has moved to the basement for the moment. There are many children who have had cardiac surgery and are still in preoperative care. Many are either on ventilators, or receiving dialysis. “There are also patients who are with their parents in the basement,” he says. “Currently, we only perform emergency surgeries on patients who [would]Without cardiac surgery, you will die. We must postpone scheduled operations until after the war is over. The medical staff of the clinic has been working invariably since the beginning of the fighting, as not everyone is able to get to the hospital.” As he was writing to TIME, he received information that a child with a congenital heart disease had died because they could not reach the hospital.

Learn More: Even If Russia Wins, It Won’t Do So Easily

All of these activities are done to improve the mood of patients. Air raids are often accompanied by songs and games. In the basement, two birthdays were celebrated. However, the difficulties are immense. Natalia Karpenko is the head of the ICU and struggles with her emotions. “The children are suffering,” she says.

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