Amputations in Ukraine as Bad as in World War I

Veterans also face problems finding affordable treatment
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2023 3:55 PM CDT
Amputations in Ukraine as Bad as in World War I
The national flag waves as workers install the Ukrainian coat of arms on the shield in the hand of the country's tallest stature, the Motherland Monument.   (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, both soldiers and civilians have faced devastating physical injuries reminiscent of World War I, reports the Wall Street Journal. While data on injuries isn't precise, the Journal indicates "between 20,000 and 50,000 Ukrainians who have lost one or more limbs since the start of the war," a range based on information from charity organizations, physicians, and makers of prosthetics. The real number, however, could be larger. Regardless, it compares to injuries sustained by British and German soldiers in World War I, when 41,000 of the former and 67,000 of the latter experienced some form of amputation. Compare that to US numbers from Afghanistan and Iraq, where fewer than 2,000 military personnel lost a limb.

The latest numbers represent a marked jump from the 10,000 amputees estimated in a Telegraph article published in April on the surge in demand and wait-times for prosthetics. The Journal indicates that backlog of need has persisted, reporting that while patients should optimally have a prosthetic within 90 days to prevent things like atrophy, some Ukrainians are still limbless a year later. The head of the world's biggest maker of prosthetics says the issue isn't an inability to produce enough artificial limbs but a shortage of the expert staff needed to care for patients. As the New York Times reported in March, some have even traveled to the United States for help in recovering from major combat-related trauma.

Still, there are soldiers who are undeterred even by the challenges of losing body parts. As the BBC reported in April, a Ukrainian soldier named Vitalii wants to return to battle against the Russians even after he lost an arm, which has since been replaced with a so-called bionic arm. As the head of the Superhumans charity put it to the BBC, "These soldiers have scars, not wounds. We believe that building a country of survivors of war, instead of victims of war, will change the trajectory of Ukraine in the future." (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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