KYIV, Ukraine — Surgeons made a long incision down the middle of the child’s chest, cut the sternum to widen the rib cage, and reached the heart when the lights went out at the Heart Institute in Kiev.
Generators were up and running to keep life-support equipment running on Wednesday night as nurses and surgical assistants held flashlights shining on the operating table, guiding surgeons as they cut and cut, working to save a life in the most difficult conditions.
Borys Todurov, director of the institute, who posted a video of the procedure online to illustrate the difficulties the doctors are facing: “In the operating room, there was a complete blackout.
“So far we are dealing on our own,” he said. “But every hour becomes more difficult. There has been no water for several hours now. We continue to perform only emergency operations.”
Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy network are taking a toll on the country as the damage mounts. After each strike, repairs become more difficult, power outages can last longer, and danger to the public increases.
The scene at Kyiv hospital echoes that of medical facilities across the country, a vivid illustration of the cumulative damage that Russian attacks are inflicting on civilians far from the front lines.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff to the president of Ukraine, said on the messaging app Telegram that two kidney transplant surgeries were being performed at the Cherkasy Regional Cancer Center in central Ukraine when the lights went out. He said the generators were turned on and the transplant was successful.
“Ukrainian doctors are invincible!” he say.
In the city center of Dnipro, an industrial and aviation hub with a population of about one million, strikes left the Mechnikov Hospital without power, for the first time since the war began, doctors said.
“We have been preparing for this moment for two years,” said one doctor, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The doctor added that the hospital’s ICU and operating rooms are powered by generators, but the living area has no electricity.
Christopher Stokes, the head of Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine, said that attacks on infrastructure were putting “millions of civilians at risk”. They can create a vicious cycle in which people living without heat and clean water are more likely to need medical care but that care itself is harder to provide.
“Energy cuts and water disruptions will also affect people’s ability to access health care as hospitals and health centers struggle to operate,” he said.
At the Kiev hospital, surgeons put on headlights and continue working in the dark. Todurov said the surgery was a success.
“Thank you to all the staff for their good coordination and selfless work,” he said. “In this unusual situation, we have not lost a single patient.”
Natalya Yermak Reporting contributions from Dnipro, Ukraine.