UC doctor helped create critical ICU train to move Ukrainian soldiers from frontline

Several Ukrainian surgeons studied at UC College of Medicine
Russia Ukraine War
Posted at 8:00 AM, Jun 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-14 23:03:21-04

When missiles began pounding the streets and neighborhoods of Ukraine much of the world’s focus went to humanitarian efforts. It was the same drive that suddenly forged one Cincinnati-based neurosurgeon and Air Force veteran to figure out ways he could bring his civilian and military training to good use.

“As the war progressed, we started to hear more stories," said Dr. Jonathan Forbes. "One of our Fellows was in Kharkiv which was basically ground zero of some of the fighting going on in the east. We looked at that and tried to think of any way we might be able to help.”

Forbes is the Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He also served as a Neurosurgeon in the United States Air Force deployed to Afghanistan where he dealt with head trauma from explosions, which included shrapnel removal.

He says over the past several years there have been several Ukrainian doctors who’ve come to UC College of Medicine for training. Now due to the war, these Fellows were putting that training to use and were looking for additional guidance from Dr. Forbes and his team.

“It was kind of a telehealth communication,” Forbes said. “We were finding that helping with some of these things there was only so much we could do virtually.”

It meant a need to get on the ground to better work out some of the logistical issues in serving war zone patients. Dr. Forbes had previously collaborated with the non-profit RAZOM and saw this as an opportunity to reach out to see how they could work together once again.

RAZOM was created in 2014 to provide an avenue for those outside Ukraine to provide support and more to those in the country solidifying its democracy. With the current war underway the organizations efforts are in full swing and Forbes quickly found himself on a plane to Krakow, Poland and eventually on the Ukraine border.

His trip was also covered by 1+1 News in Ukraine. At that point he had joined his UC Fellow and Dr. Mykjailo Lovga who is the Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery Department at Children’s Hospital in Lviv, Ukraine.

“We were taking care of some kids who had suffered shrapnel injury in the eastern part of the country,” Forbes said.

He was also helping with additional surgeries tied to tumor removal.

Nearly 600 miles away on the frontlines of the fight between Ukrainian troops and the Russian advance was another problem relayed by another UC Fellow in Dnipro, Ukraine.

“The soldiers they were getting in from the east, they were having a really hard time when these soldiers were critically ill getting them out of the hospital,” Forbes recalled. “In an ICU designed for 15 beds they had 87 people when he had talked with us.”

The idea being brainstormed was to create and ICU on a train to be able to move the seriously wounded from the frontlines and get them to safer areas for treatment and recovery.

Helping troubleshoot the situation Forbes immediately drew on his knowledge of the U.S. Air Force’s Critical Care Air Transport Team or CCATT to adopt its intensive care unit in the air to a Ukrainian train.

“Through contacts here at University of Cincinnati, active-duty personnel, we were able to get lists of all the equipment needs for the CCATT transport unit,” Forbes said. “The roll packs, the bags you need.”

The list drawn up was presented to the organization RAZOM who was able to purchase a lot of the equipment to make the ICU train a reality.

The completed train meant the movement of wounded Ukrainian troops from the military hospital in Dnipro.

“I’m glad we were able to help in some small way with the conflict,” Forbes said. “The railway in particular has been really a lifeline for the Ukrainian military and the people trying to flee the eastern part of the country.”

While Forbes is now back home in Cincinnati he remains in contact with his Fellows helping with any additional troubleshooting.

He says what struck him the most is the overwhelming humanitarian effort he encountered when he entered Ukraine from Poland. He says he’ll always remember the faces of the family and the children who are impacted the most by the war.

Thursday June 16th a special event entitled, “An Evening To Benefit Ukraine”, will feature guest speakers Dr. Jonathan Forbes, co-founder of RAZOM of Ukraine Mariya Soroka, and neurosurgeon Luke Tomycz with Co-Pilot Project.

You can RSVP to the event here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/351330808907

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