Fear recedes when people need to be rescued: Ambulance doctor on the service in August 2008


In the first week of the war in August 2008, ambulance brigades patrolling the streets of the capital, looking for the wounded, said Emzar Kulumbegov, Deputy Director of the South Ossetian Medical Center for Ambulance. Remembering those days is not easy for everyone.

As the head of the service told IA "Res", on the night of August 7-8, he was outside the ambulance building.

“Our medical staff works in shifts, and when the shelling began, the shift, which was working from 7 to 8 August, remained in the building. There were about ten of them. They had no other choice, because the shooting was conducted from everywhere. On 7 August, a shell hit our building. The staff went down to the basement and provided medical assistance to the patients,” Kulumbegov said.

According to him, he managed to get to work only on the 9th.

“The building was destroyed: a control room, a chamber for medicines. I let all the medical staff go home, only me and the drivers remained in the building. Within two or three days we went out to the calls with a limited team, then gradually began to recruit doctors and nurses. At first, there were not enough doctors and doctors from the hospital were helping us. We were provided with walkie-talkies and by radio communication we learned about the wounded. Over the course of a week, the situation began to change - the shelling practically stopped, there were not so many calls to involve the entire team of medical personnel. We needed about two doctors, three nurses and drivers. When the situation stabilized a little, we went to patrol the city,” said Kulumbegov.

He has noted, there was no shortage of drugs.

“We had all the necessary medicines at that time, although the shell hit the warehouse, but much remain whole and we did not need any medicines or funds,” he said.

Every person who experienced the war in August 2008 has painful memories. Especially doctors who have seen both suffering and death.

“It's hard for me to talk about it. We had a call to the wounded patient who was on the territory of Georgia. They brought him to meet us, we managed to take him to the hospital, but unfortunately, he died,” Kulumbegov recalls.

“The dead were buried in their own gardens; it is difficult to remember these moments. We had such a call when a woman buried her late husband in the garden and she felt bad. We have witnessed many such tragic incidents, and it is unforgettable,” he said.

Were the defenders of the city and the doctors afraid then, who, under fire, risking their lives, were saving people?

“Only a mentally abnormal person is not afraid of anything. Considering what the Ossetians have experienced since the 1920s, all that I myself have seen since the 90s is that fear is receding. You have to fulfill your duties,” said the head of the ambulance.

According to Kulumbegov, the same nurses and doctors who rescued people in the difficult August days are still working in the ambulance, but, unfortunately, two drivers died after the war.

The head physician of the ambulance wished all residents of South Ossetia not to experience the horrors of war anymore.

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