Science

Fear of suffocation: Ukrainian patients faced a power outage – Science et Avenir

Valentin Brain is paralyzed and needs a special device to help him breathe. This means that for him Russian bombing, destroying the electrical infrastructure of Ukraine, is a threat.

Valentin suffers from Charcot’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease that confines him to his home in Kyiv in a medical bed. His face is barely visible behind his respirator mask.

“See, he is alive. This means that I managed to “find a solution,” his wife Lyudmila Mozgova told AFP, sitting next to him.

She then recounts her horror when Kyiv was plunged into darkness and her husband without a respirator in early October after the first Russian strikes on Ukrainian energy facilities.

– “It was torture” –

Without electricity, Valentin had to breathe alone for a long 10 minutes, without outside help.

“The way he breathed (then) was scary! We didn’t know what to do,” Lyudmila recalls.

Like the entire population of the Ukrainian capital, Lyudmila and Valentin are left without electricity for several hours a day. So they adapted.

“His body does not move, but (Valentin) remains very alert, he gives a lot of advice. He is our captain,” explains Lyudmila, whose husband has a hard time muttering.

To respond to power outages, the company installed a battery system that takes over the fan when power runs out.

But this organization is not enough to completely reassure the couple, because they often do not know when the cuts will take place and how long they will last.

“I wish we had at least some stability so that we know when we have electricity,” she laments, saying she knows she and her husband have the “luxury” to buy what they have. equipment. “It was very expensive, our children helped us. I don’t even know what to advise those who can’t afford it.”

According to Irina Kochkina, head of the Svoy NGO, which helps patients with palliative care, tens of thousands of people are in the situation with Valentin in Ukraine.

“If all of these people suddenly stopped being helped (at home) by the equipment that supports their life, and they were taken to the hospital, then our healthcare system would simply explode,” she says.

Tatyana Venglinskaya had no choice but to hospitalize her mother, 75-year-old Eva, after three months of dealing with power outages.

Eva, who has lung cancer, needs to be connected to an oxygen concentrator, her daughter says, sitting on the edge of a hospital bed in Kyiv.

In order for the device’s batteries to withstand long power outages, the oxygen supply had to be reduced first. “For my mother, it was sheer torture,” recalls Tatyana, “Imagine! Divide the amount of oxygen you breathe into three!”

And since the battery life of the device is only about eight hours, Eva’s family lived in constant anxiety.

– Not a small glass –

The husband “was afraid to go into the room because he was wondering if my mother was still alive,” says Tatyana.

When Russian explosions cause another power outage on the night of December 17, Tatyana decides to call an ambulance and hospitalize her mother, whose device has only a few tens of minutes of battery life left. A decision that saved his life, because in the end the building would be left without electricity for four days.

Since then, Tatiana has spent most of her time at her mother’s bedside, saying that she still hopes to bring her home someday.

Lyudmila Mozgova, she also believes in better days and that her husband will be there to celebrate the end of the war.

“Let’s drink to victory, that’s for sure! Valentin will be in his own way, through a straw, and I will pour myself, ”she smiles. “And it won’t be a little drink!”

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