On Tuesday 29 March, we went on a visit to Zaphorizhzhia and met the regional health director. We said we wanted to hear from him if there are any things he needs from us. He said he’d heard a story about a train for medical transfer, and he was very interested. He said he had patients who needed to be referred.
We said: Okay—let’s go and see your patients.
Most of the patients we saw had been wounded in, or while trying to escape from, Mariupol. One patient had big open fractures, and both legs on vacuum drainage. Fairly stable, but a very sick child.
Of course, it makes sense to offload hospitals that are close to the frontline to enable them to have more bed capacity. But we needed to make sure we’d be transferring the patients to somewhere where they will get the same level of care, if not higher level of care. And we just wanted to make sure this would be safe for everybody.
We talked with the parents to ask if they wanted medical evacuation or not. The first mother said: “I want my child to be med-evacced because I think it is the only chance for my child to keep his legs.” And the child looked at us and said: “I want to walk again."
By then it was the end of the day and we had to leave to be able to pass checkpoints. So we said we cannot promise anything, we’ll see what’s possible. And the hospital director and many of the interns were there and they were insistent: “You NEED to get them out of here. They need to survive. This is our hope."
The next day, we came back, three of us, and we screened every single patient. Our key point was to consider for each patient—could this person sustain a 20-hours transfer where we don’t have ICU [Intensive Care Unit] level of care on this first short version of the medical referral train?
And then Thursday morning we came back early, to do another check on all the patients before doing the referral, to make 100 percent sure they were stable.