Every soldier should be trained in first aid
Bohdan Kukharuk - a man who achieved the rank of Plastun-SKOB: Order of the "Iron Forts" and commander of the "Harpoon" Battalion’s First Company. Before the war he was an avid mountaineer, organized tourist activities and judged multi-sport competitions. From the beginning of the war, he helped the military with delivering convoys to the front. Later he joined the newly formed Special Operations Battalion "Harpoon". He completed two tactical medicine trainings with “Patriot Defence".
On July 22 near the “Shakhta" checkpoint, between Avdeevka and Yasinuvata (Donetsk region), he and his fellow soldiers from the "Harpoon" and 74th Reconnaissance Battalions were performing their duties when a mine exploded. Five of the eight men were wounded, two critically, one of them being the combat medic, which was most important. Bohdan had to provide first aid and evacuate his brothers-in-arms.
The first moments
In the first seconds, it wasn’t clear what had happened. Then there was a scream and I realized that something was wrong. Only after 10 minutes did I begin to act consciously; up until that moment, everything I was doing was by reflex. At first we ran over to put on a tourniquet. Members of the 74th Reconnaissance Battalion were with us. Two of them immediately ran to demine the road to be used for evacuation. One stayed behind to help me out. It’s good that all my boys had their first aid kits because members from the 74th Battalion only had items stuffed into their pockets. We used up the entirety of the kits, including everything that was in mine. Then someone handed me some pain medication which I fed to “Hryzun”. It was obvious that he was tired and in pain while waiting to be evacuated.
We used 3 tourniquets on “Hruzyn”, 2 on “Kabul”, and 1 on “Khudozhnyk” (which he applied himself). One of the intelligence officers was also injured. I later removed “Kabul’s” tourniquet. Some of the boys from the Recon unit also carried tourniquets.
“Kabul”, a combat medic, made it easier for me as he was conscious and was able to update me on his status. He immediately felt weak, his head hurt a little. He was in a state of shock, but didn’t feel any pain. He was talking normally, which comforted me.
“Hryzun” and “Yevhen” were seriously injured. I told “Hryzun” to continually make noises to let me know that he was still conscious. And when they carried him away, he was still responsive. “Hryzun” was closest to the mine. It was difficult for him to talk because it got him in the lower jaw. I asked him to even just make a humming noise. At some point he was still able to tell me what and where it hurt.
One of the intelligence officers, “Kol”, was also injured. When he returned from demining the road, he noticed that he was bleeding critically from his hands. He immediately applied a tourniquet, and then ran to his comrades. When there was time, “Hryzun” and “Yevhen” were carried to a car. “Kabul” and “Khudozhnyk” were in stable condition, so I removed “Kol’s” tourniquet and applied a pressure bandage to the wound instead. Later, in hospital, they found shrapnel in his leg and he was still able to carry out two men in that condition. He was in shock; his adrenaline was pumping. That’s the type of man he is; tough. Despite his own injuries, it was important for him to help. Once he was checked into the hospital, the wound with the shrapnel was already dirty and infected so they began to drain it and remove the particles.
14:10, I remember writing the time on all the tourniquets that had been applied. About 25-30 minutes passed by before they got “Hryzun” and “Yevhen” to a car. “Kabul” and “Khudozhnyk” were taken a little later. There weren’t enough people, nor stretchers, so they evacuated the seriously injured first. They were taken by ambulance to the military hospital in Krasnoarmiisk, along a road in horrible condition. When I was evacuating the other three-- “Kabul”, “Khudozhnyk” and “Kol”, I decided to take a different route to a hospital in Kostyantynivka because it was the same distance, and along a much better road.
An ambulance was supposed to meet me on the road. It would have been helpful to have had their medical support, however, since they did not show up I went ahead to Kostyantynivka.
We broke the back seats in my jeep and opened the hatch. “Kol” sat beside me--he was feeling fine. “Khudozhnyk” had a leg injury--he was in pain but feeling okay. So I put him next to “Kabul”, to support him, because he could not do so on his own. His one arm was broken. “Khudozhnyk” was holding him, making sure he was responsive and preventing him from moving around. At the time, I did not know that “Kabul” had blood in his lungs. The rib cage was broken in two places so I stuck chest seals on him. If the lung were to collapse, I knew that I would need to let out air using a chest decompression needle. So I told “Khudozhnyk” to keep talking with “Kabul” to find out if and when I needed to pull my car over and do something.
When Kabul was brought to the hospital, he went for x-rays and then immediately into the operating room. In the OR, his blood pressure dropped and his condition worsened. From my understanding, had we arrived even 10 minutes later… Even so, we were still delayed getting to the hospital. On our way there, we had met some of our boys in Kostyantynivka who were confused as to the hospital’s exact location. We arrived at a clinic, and then had to turn around and go back to find it.
The surgeon was smart; he saw that the “Kabul” was in such serious condition that he didn’t even allow the nurses to shave the hair off his chest. He rushed him to the operating room. There was blood in his lungs, they drained more than a litre.
Later, they called for an evac vehicle from Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital. He spent a day in that hospital, and was then driven to the Military hospital in Krasnoarmiisk where he was immediately transferred to the Mechnikova hospital in Dnipropetrovsk. They have better specialists and equipment, as compared to Kostyantynivka, where I initially brought “Khudozhnyk” and “Kabul”, which only has one operating room. For “Khudozhnyk” they were only able to re-bandage his wounds and nothing else. The doctor came in and said that “Kabul’s” operation would last another two hours, and “Khudozhnyk” might lose his leg if they waited. So the doctor called Artemiivsk and learned that their operating room was free and they were waiting for us. It’s about 25km away. We got into the car and drove him there. Once we arrived, they quickly prepared him for the operation. He had lost a lot of blood because of all the holes. He didn’t feel his foot at some point and there was some nerve contusion, but in the end he didn’t lose his leg!
Knowledge that everyone should posses
It is vital that everyone know how to provide first aid. All of the “Harpoon” boys in the ATO were trained. The guys from the 74th battalion knew some things, like how to apply a tourniquet, but everything else, I had to coach them: "Turn him like this, put the head this way, let's turn him over. That - over here. Bring me that. Cut here. Wrap here". In fact, the officer who stayed with me was actively assisting me. He was at times unsure of what to do but I gave him clear instructions. Well, it was also easier for me because in mountaineering and extreme situations, I always take control of what needs to get done.
When I lived in the dugouts with a unit of the Armed Forces, I once saw a soldier take a picture with a first aid kit and then leave without it. Someone had brought them a great number of kits, not of IFAK quality, but with tourniquets, celox, bandages etc. They received them, with or without training, took a photo and that’s it.
First, everyone should know their exact responsibilities when it comes to first aid, because what happened to us could happen to anyone. People were counting on the fact that there was a medic so everything will be fine. And it turns out our medic was the one wounded. This can happen to the commander too. If everyone relies on the Commander, that’s bad too. If he leaves, or God forbid, gets injured, then everyone will be lost. Every individual needs to have this basic knowledge.
In Patriot Defence’s tactical medicine training, they create realistic simulations that show how one might act and react in a real life situation. All other factors depend on the situation itself and the people present. When a mine detonates, you react one way, when you hear shooting, you react in another way, and when you are walking in complete silence, fully masked and something blows up behind you, this evokes an even more different type of reaction.
Post Scriptum. “Hryzun” (Mykola Hordiychuk) and Yevhen Biryukov died that day. “Hryzun” was 29 years old. He was an older PLAST member, singer, public figure, was fond of military affairs and was planning on becoming an officer. He was supposed to get married a month after the accident. “Hryzun” died from shrapnel wounds on the way to the hospital. Yevhen was 34. He received shrapnel wounds to the head and died in hospital the next day, never regaining consciousness. He is survived by his wife and 11 year old daughter. “Kabul” and “Khudozhnyk” survived; both are recovering and continue to fight.