Augustine Moscatello, M.D., M.S., a professor of clinical otolaryngology and chair of the Department of Otolaryngology at New York Medical College (NYMC) and director of otolaryngology at Westchester Medical Center, and Manoj T. Abraham, M.D., F.A.C.S, clinical associate professor of otolaryngology, treated patients in Western Ukraine at a regional hospital in Ivanko-Frankivsk as war devastates the country. Drs. Moscatello and Abraham collaborated with 15 current and retired medical professionals on a mission trip in September to treat more than 30 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians—the youngest approximately five years old.
Upon their arrival at the hospital, they were escorted to a bomb shelter in a basement, as air raid sirens could have sounded at any point throughout their nine-day trip. Although the war was far from Ivanko-Frankivsk at the time, they were prepared. The siren sounded once while they were in surgery, but fortunately, there were no attacks during their stay.
Head and neck reconstructive surgeries were the main focus of the trip organized by Dr. Abraham as chair of the Face-To-Face Committee of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, as well as Healing The Children Northeast, Inc., Razom for Ukraine and other organizations. The team with decades of experience tended to mostly eye, nasal and facial juries, with three jaw surgeries from gunshot wounds. The head and neck injuries ranged in complexity, including a fourteen-hour jaw reconstruction surgery that required bone grafts, microvascular surgery and 3-D custom implants.
In addition to medical treatment, the local Ukrainian hospital staff wove camouflage blankets that troops would use to cover their equipment and vehicles.
“[The mission trip] reinforced my feelings that there was no sense in what was happening to the people of Ukraine. The fact that they could have a completely normal life one day and then have their lives completely overturned overnight because of the invasion of the Russians is just inconceivable,” said Dr. Moscatello. “I had a sense that they were brave, loyal people and they certainly reinforced my feelings about their character. The Ukrainian people were very nice, very appreciative, extremely grateful for everything we had done.”
“Our team was incredibly impressed by the resiliency of the Ukrainian people, with many of the patients’ intent on returning to the war effort despite their severe injuries. It was an exhausting but incredibly gratifying experience” said Dr. Abraham.
Dr. Abraham in collaboration with Dr. Moscatello are organizing another nine-day mission trip to Lviv, Ukraine in April and plans to teach Ukrainian surgeons intricate reconstruction techniques performed in the U.S.