Kharkiv the train ride to save 200 psychiatric patients from

Kharkiv, the train ride to save 200 psychiatric patients from the Russians: “They were reduced to skin and bones”

by Martha Serafini

The story of Doctors Without Borders evacuating dozens of elderly people with serious illnesses including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s fleeing the front lines

Kyiv – “When they called me from the hospital and said that Irina had not made it, I must confess that it was difficult not to cry.” It is certainly not the first time that Emilie Fourrey, coordinator of the MSF -Train in Ukraine for the evacuation of the wounded, faced with dramatic situations. But the last ride is not easily forgotten.

Two hundred patients with neurological and psychiatric pathologies, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, rescued after being transported from the Russian border in Streleccha to Kharkiv and bombed, and finally transported to Kyiv thanks to the MSF train. Including Irina, about 80 years old. “He suffered from Parkinson’s disease and contracted tuberculosis and pneumonia. During the trip it got worse and yesterday they called me to say that despite the treatment she had died ». Elderly people who are often hospitalized in psychiatric wards because they have no one left. A loneliness that the war has only made worse. “When I fed them, everyone asked me for an encore. They were hungry, their bones and ribs were clearly visible, and they were clearly malnourished. It was hard to see,” Fourrey continues.

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Before their evacuation, the patients had to face extremely difficult conditions, “some had to sleep on the floor, with insufficient access to quality care and hygiene”. Frontline healthcare and nursing facilities in eastern and south-eastern Ukraine face major challenges every day to continue caring for their patients. Water shortages, power outages, food shortages, difficult access to the medicines patients need, and extreme danger when fighting rages near their locations.

This was the case for over 600 patients who were in early September in a frontline building in Kharkiv Oblast in Streleccha, a village first controlled by the Russians and then liberated during the advance on Izyum in mid-September. Exactly at the same hours, while an evacuation attempt was underway, the facility was bombed by retreating Moscow soldiers, injuring four doctors and two patients. Then the patients were transferred to a hospital in the city of Kharkiv, increasing the number of patients in the hospital from 400 to over 1,000. But here, too, the situation was critical.

“After taking in so many sick people, despite the best efforts of the staff, conditions in the hospital have become really difficult. They didn’t have enough beds, medicines, or staff to take care of everyone. And at this point the Kyiv Ministry of Health is asking MSF to help ease the pressure on the hospital by transferring over 200 patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders to the capital (here is the link to the NGO’s campaign starting today) . . “The first train left on September 23. We made two trips in 36 hours, transporting patients with a variety of medical conditions. We also had many patients with acute psychotic disorders, especially on the last trip. Luckily we had a psychiatrist with us who knew her. Some were understandably excited, but everything went smoothly during the trip to Kyiv,” concludes Fourrey. For everyone except Irina.

October 2, 2022 (change October 2, 2022 | 21:41)