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Christian doctor speaks of danger while treating war victims in Ukraine

22 April 2022

Samaritan’s Purse

Dr Laura Douglas-Beveridge treats a patient in Lviv, Ukraine

Dr Laura Douglas-Beveridge treats a patient in Lviv, Ukraine

LVIV, in western Ukraine, is a long way from St Thomas’ Hospital, by Westminster Bridge, but Dr Laura Douglas-Beveridge felt called to make the journey.

Dr Douglas-Beveridge spent three weeks in Lviv during March, working in a field hospital established by the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse (News, 11 March).

Was she nervous? “Anyone who didn’t have a level of apprehension would be a little naïve,” Dr Douglas-Beveridge said on Tuesday, during a brief lull in her shift working as a specialist in emergency medicine and intensive care at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust.

“We didn’t know what we were going to find when we got there,” she said, “but the safety briefing brought a degree of reality to the situation — being told what to do if under fire or in a bomb blast.”

On Monday, Lviv recorded its first civilian deaths after missile strikes on the city killed seven. During her time in the city, there were frequent air-raid sirens — up to six in one day — but “the people were stoical, and there was a real determination to keep going as normal. . . However, it wasn’t long before something reminded you that this was an unstable situation — danger was never far from the surface.”

The field hospital contains 30 beds as well as an ICU. It is located underground in order to protect it from bombardment. The hospital is able to adjust as the situation changes — for example, by adding a maternity centre to support the increasing numbers of pregnant mothers that were passing through the city.

“We had a huge variety of medical, surgical, and psychological challenges that people presented with,” Dr Douglas-Beveridge said. “Often, it was quite challenging to separate out what the physical components of an injury were from the psychological trauma.

“Sometimes, there were things that we could fix in that moment, but often it was just trying to make things as safe as possible, so that they could keep going towards their final destination.”

The latest figures from the UNHCR show that just over five million people have fled the country since the Russian invasion in February.

Back at work in London, Dr Douglas-Beveridge says that the experience gave her a fresh perspective on the Easter story. “The gift that God gives us of hope in new life is even more real for me after having this experience.

“I was so blessed that I was doing that journey alongside incredible men and women of faith,” she said, referring to the international team of medical volunteers that work with Samaritan’s Purse.

She would encourage anyone who might be thinking about volunteering, in whatever capacity, to take the plunge: “If I can do it, then I think a lot of people would be able to as well.”

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