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War in Ukraine. Cardiac surgeon Professor Michał Zembala helps in Ivano-Frankivsk, heals the hearts of Ukrainians

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Cardiac surgeon prof. Michał Zembala returned from Ukraine, where he stayed at the invitation of Ukrainian doctors. In Ivano-Frankivsk, he treated patients for whom urgent heart surgery is the only salvation. Doctors operated while emergency sirens wailed nearby. – It’s better not to hear it and not to know it and act normally – describes Zembala in an interview with TVN24 reporter Jerzy Korczyński.

To Ivano-Frankivsk prof. Zembala has been traveling – at the invitation of Ukrainian medics – for several months. – We arranged a number of our trips to their hospital to – firstly – help them operate on difficult patients, because it is a young team that is still developing and they do not have such experience and technology yet, and secondly – a lot of people involved in the treatment of heart diseases she left for treatment at the front and there were no doctors to treat those heart patients – explains the professor in an interview with TVN24 reporter Jerzy Korczyński.

Operations in the orthopedic room, but with a “fantastic team”

He performed operations there in the orthopedic room. The new operating block is unfinished – work stopped after the outbreak of war. – Na Ukraine I had my first surgery in six months. Trivalvular heart disease, a difficult patient. Working with a fantastic team that I didn’t know before, with a siren howling outside the window, I realized that it’s a bit like riding a bike, you never forget it – says Zembala.

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During his last stay, he operated on six patients. As he himself admits, these procedures were technically very difficult. – Two cases of extensive aortic aneurysms, reoperations, polyvalvular patients. So patients are quite complicated – the professor lists.

Operations in the orthopedic room, but with a “fantastic team”. Prof. Zembala heals the hearts of UkrainiansJacek Waszak

As he explains, there were no specialists on site who would carry out the procedures in an appropriate and modern way.

– It should be remembered that Ukraine is a country where health care is at a very low level of financing. For many treatments, the patient pays for himself. By operating there and helping these people and these doctors, I am waiving any remuneration, so at least I can help these people so much that they do not have to pay for my remuneration. But still patients pay for all medical equipment, disposable equipment. This was also the reason why we decided to collect some of the equipment from Poland – he explains in an interview with a TVN24 reporter.

They operate when alarm sirens wail nearby. “It’s better not to hear it and not know it and carry on as normal”

Ivano-Frankivsk is located 200 kilometers from the Polish border. There are no regular fights here, but in the city you can still feel that the country is at war. – You can feel the war atmosphere there quite strongly, especially in the city streets, where it is dark, where there is no electricity, where there are generators, where there is no hot water. In the hospital, we try to work normally – the professor reports.

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However, this is not always possible. There are still air alerts. – When we heard the alarm siren for the first time, our reaction was that we don’t know whether the electricity will be turned off now or not. We decided to lower the blinds, close all the windows. It’s better not to hear it and not know it and act normally.

They operate when alarm sirens wail nearbyJacek Waszak

As he recalls, there was also a situation when suddenly during the procedure the power went out. – Fortunately, the generators turned on quickly and this loss of electricity was quite short, it lasted maybe 15 seconds – says the doctor.

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Alarms often cause the elevators in the hospital to suddenly stop working, so there is a problem with the transport of the patient. “We have to plan our treatments so that we don’t get stuck somewhere in the corridor,” explains Zembala.

Prof. Zembala goes to Ivano-Frankivsk to heal the hearts of Ukrainians – conversationTVN24

Professor Zembala: moving conversations with patients

Ivano-Frankivsk is a city which before World War II was called Stanisławów and was located within the borders of Poland. To this day, some of its inhabitants speak or understand Polish. – Conversations with these patients are poignant – admits Zembala. And he adds: – There is no person who has not lost, or whose close or close person is not somewhere further on the eastern front. (…) posters of those who fell are visible in the city and it is poignant. When you walk along the main street, there is just a row of portraits of people who died and it goes along the entire length of the streets. There are billboards with these faces (…) And that’s good. We should all see the faces of those who gave their lives for this senseless Russian aggression.

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He adds that these people’s hope for the end of the war is strong, but the fact that the war has been going on for a year makes the sadness visible on their faces. – Hope is strong, but clearly smaller than the one that was two months ago. And it’s dead. I think that our visit there is also such a stimulus for them, because people want to help, that still – despite the fact that a year has passed – we “have not got bored” that this help is still real – he emphasizes.

Main photo source: Jacek Waszak

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