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Inverness surgeon returns to Ukraine war zone for the third time since the Russian invasion

By Ian Duncan

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Andy Kent at work.
Andy Kent at work.

An Inverness trauma and orthopaedic surgeon returned to Ukraine earlier this month to help treat casualties.

Andy Kent, who is 58 years old and based at Raigmore Hospital, is working with the charity UK-Med for the third time since the Russian invasion.

He said that, while he had not visited the country in more peaceful times, he was beginning to feel strangely at home there.

“I’ve been warmly greeted as a long-lost friend by many local UK-Med staff and surgical colleagues at the civilian hospitals where I am based,” he added.

“The journey from Inverness to Dnipro is not an easy one – particularly with rail strikes and snow – and it took me four days with stopovers in Edinburgh, Krakow and Lviv.

“I was able to attend some surgical planning meetings whilst passing through Lviv. UK-Med is helping to coordinate specialist training in limb salvage surgery and rehabilitation.

“Unfortunately there is and will be a huge demand for this for years to come.”

Andy Kent with Nik his interpreter and “fixer”.
Andy Kent with Nik his interpreter and “fixer”.

He said he had experienced some pretty rough train journeys back and forth across Ukraine – anything between 20 and 27 hours – but this time was the most comfortable and peaceful yet.

“I travelled overnight with a couple of colleagues from UK-Med – one was from Australia and one from Malaysia,” he added.

Mr Kent said Lviv was a beautiful European city and it seemed so much more alive than when he last visited. He added: “It was rather strange to find myself back in the middle of the orthodox Christmas celebrations in the middle of January.

“Arriving in Dnipro on Saturday morning I was surprised by the lack of snow and how warm it felt. They are experiencing unseasonably high temperatures here – long may it last.

“I was driven to my accommodation which is in the city centre, allowing easier access to and from local hospitals, and had just started unpacking my bag when a large explosion rattled the windows.

“This turned out to be the Russian ballistic missile which had struck a block of flats causing multiple, around 50, civilian deaths and casualties.”

He said they were immediately in touch with surgical colleagues to offer help as required overnight and added: “Most of the trauma cases were managed elsewhere and we were not required directly.

“On Sunday my colleague and I operated all day on planned trauma cases to free up capacity for our Ukrainian colleagues.

“This incident has understandably caused outrage in Dnipro and people are clearly stunned. However, their resolve to persevere has hardened.”

Mr Kent said that throughout last week he had been working in two main trauma units offering surgical training and advice.

“I have also been planning to help deliver formal lecture-based training in mass casualty management and damage control surgery across the region’s medical facilities,” he said.

“Finally, we are expecting a large shipment of medical aid which has been donated through the FCDO. Once this arrives in Dnipro it will be rapidly distributed amongst the many civilian health facilities throughout the region.

“For all the reasons noted above, the ten days since leaving home have flown past. Hopefully, this weekend will be rather more peaceful and allow me to catch up with some personal admin and planning.”

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