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Third mission of the Canada Ukraine Surgical Aid Program (CUSAP) concludes in Poland

Jun 2, 2023 | Canada, Featured, News, Ukraine, Community

The CUSAP team

Anastasiya Ringis,

The Canada Ukraine Surgical Aid Program (CUSAP) completed its third mission since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, in Cžeładz, Poland, on May 7, 2023.

CUSAP, a unique project of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, organizes and mobilizes a self-sufficient multidisciplinary surgical team comprising of all requisite staff, surgical hardware and supplies to operate on the severely injured in the war in Ukraine.

During this last mission, Canadian doctors examined 52 patients, and operated on 38 of them, including civilians with severe facial injuries sustained from Russian missile attacks on Ukraine, and veteran soldiers, who were wounded in battle defending Azovstal, Bakhmut, and other frontline Ukrainian cities.
This mission performed 130 procedures on the 38 patients.

“Injuries of this severity are not commonly seen anywhere in the world but are seen with increasing frequency in Ukraine. Current weapons are designed to inflict maximal damage and all patients present with defects comprising loss of multiple tissues… they are literally missing a body part,” said Dr. Oleh Antonyshyn, the head surgeon, and inspiration behind CUSAP.

The operations were successful because of highly skilled medical professionals with specialized equipment at their disposal, such as a specialized microscope and X-ray device – C-arm, that allowed micro and orthopaedic surgeons to perform their operations more efficiently.

In conjunction with the first two missions in 2022, 30 pallets of medical equipment were delivered to the Polish hospital; CUSAP now has its own temporary warehouse to store locally all the surgical equipment between missions.

The mission provided critical surgery to all 38 patients, and six, with the most severe facial traumas, underwent surgery that allows them to breathe and eat as a result. The surgeons performed a remarkable seven “free flaps” tissue transfer operation during the mission.

The mission of Canadian medical professionals found that they are seeing increasingly severe and complex injuries, including those with multiple traumas. On this mission, a few of the patients underwent operations by several surgical teams simultaneously. Among the patients treated on this mission was a POW freed from Russian captivity.

Each mission provides full patient treatment. From pre-mission patient assessments and consultations, surgical care and post operative treatment to physical and psychological rehabilitation. This surgical mission was accompanied by two military psychologists who worked with patients.

Several patients were not first-timers, and had their second, or even third, facial reconstruction. These are the patients who consider the Canadian doctors to be like family, and look forward to seeing them every time they return.

“We are so grateful for the angel medical team. They give us hope to go on” says Sasha, a patient who had the lower part of his face rebuilt by the CUSAP team.

In the first weeks after surgery, patients require monitoring on a daily basis. The post-operative care is being handled by some of the 15 Ukrainian surgeons who took part in CUSAP’s training program. They participated in the surgeries and are familiar with each patient’s treatment plan.

In addition to participating in the surgeries, they had an opportunity to be the first to experience a virtual platform that simulated the human face, allowing surgeons to see the results of the operation digitally. This virtual platform was developed and presented to CUSAP by Sunnybrook Health Science Center, in order to enhance the educational surgical skills of the participants.

The three surgical missions held outside of Ukraine in Poland was made possible because of the strong ties CUF and CUSAP established with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine over the years, and more recently, with the Government of Poland. In order to allow Canadian doctors to perform surgeries on Ukrainian patients in Poland, Polish officials had to amend their Health Regulations to allow for temporary certification of Canadian Doctors and Nurses.

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