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Hoosier ER doctor working on Ukraine’s medical frontlines

Dr. Chris Brandenburg
Posted at 11:48 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-28 23:48:08-04

LVIV, UKRAINE – For one Hoosier doctor, going to Ukraine to help on the medical frontlines is his calling. It’s something he tells WRTV God called him to do as the war rages on in the country.

“When the conflict broke out, I was prepared to be called. And I figured that if I was called then I would go,” Dr. Chris Brandenburg said. “I have a skillset that they can use. I have the time available to me. And you know, if a guy like that is not going to go, then who's gonna go?”

Dr. Brandenburg is a Lafayette-based ER doctor. On Saturday, he spoke with WRTV reporter Nikki DeMentri hours after explosions happened outside of Lviv.

Credit: Samaritan's Purse/Dr. Chris Brandenburg

“Since I've been here, that was, that was a third time we actually had active missiles or bombs dropped. And I would say, you know, each time we just, you know, we take a few minutes, and we just make sure that we're ready,” Dr. Brandenburg said.

On Saturday, he said his waiting room went from “five or six people” to “about 40.”

“This war is catastrophic and we just hate the thought of anyone dying ... Ukrainians are real people. I tell you the vigor the men are fighting with, the strength of the women … it’s just amazing,” Dr. Brandenburg said.

It’s been nearly three weeks since Dr. Brandenburg first came to Lviv to help at an emergency field hospital through the Christian-based humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse. The Hoosier father and husband most recently worked for IU Health.

Dr. Brandenburg with his family.

“Getting here, it was a long trip. It was heartbreaking coming here,” Dr. Brandenburg said.

The doctor flew into Poland and then joined a humanitarian bus transport into Ukraine.

“Crossing the border, it was absolutely heartbreaking. Just seeing all the people that were fleeing, all the refugees. And because most of the men aged 18 to 60 had to stay in the country, it was almost all women and children with a few elderly men. The women had what they can carry on their back — very few possessions. The kids would have one prized possession, like the little girls had a Barbie doll, something like that,” Dr. Brandenburg said.

Patients coming into the hospital, Dr. Brandenburg said, are extremely sick with cancer or other ailments where surgery had to be postponed. It was not until recently he has seen an uptick in trauma cases. Many of those patients traveled hundreds of miles from cities like Mariupol.

“We've seen a lot of trauma victims and basically people who had gunshot wounds or shrapnel wounds, terrible wounds or broken bones like weeks ago, two or three weeks ago, and they were stuck in Mariupol. And what happened was when even they got out, all the local hospitals were so full that if they literally didn't have something that they were going to die from immediately, they would tell them to go to another hospital. So I had people with gunshot wounds, you know, shrapnel wounds, still inside their bodies for two to three weeks that traveled 700 miles here,” Dr. Brandenburg said.

Once Dr. Brandenburg leaves Lviv, Ukraine, he will travel to Poland before returning to Indiana.