‘Total torture’: Sick Ukrainians need oxygen amid blackouts

Kyiv: Valentine Mozgovy can’t breathe on his own, and keeping his ventilator on during Ukraine’s blackouts has become a matter of life and death.
Regular power outages caused by Russian missile strikes have terrified tens of thousands of Ukrainians who depend on electricity to run their medical equipment.
Mozgovy suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative neurological disease that has left him paralyzed and unable to breathe without assistance.
“He’s alive, you see. That means I understand”, his wife, Lyudmyla Mozgovatold AFP in their apartment in the capital Kyiv.
Beside her, her husband was wrapped in a patterned quilt in a medically adapted bed, his face barely visible under the fan.
The Mozgovys have come a long way since the first long blackout after the wave of targeted strikes on energy infrastructure began in October.
Valentyn had to breathe on his own for ten excruciating minutes.
“The way he was breathing was scary…we had no idea what to do!” said his wife.
As breakdowns became the norm, the Mozgovys adapted.
“His body isn’t moving, but his mind is very bright, he gives a lot of advice…he’s our captain,” she said.
She set up an energy storage system and extra batteries for her husband’s breathing unit and medical mattress, which regulates the pressure felt by bedridden patients.
Constant anxiety
As prepared as they tried to be, their situation is precarious.
“I would like there to be some stability, so that we can understand when there will be electricity…to make a decision on how to cope.”
Mozgova realizes how lucky they are to be able to afford the equipment needed to keep her husband alive.
“It was very expensive, our children helped us… I don’t even know what advice to give to those who don’t have money,” she says.
In Ukraine, tens of thousands of people need electricity to stay alive, said Iryna Koshkina, executive director of the SVOYI charity which provides care for palliative care patients.
“If all of these people were suddenly unable to use their lifesaving devices and went to the hospital at the same time, our medical system would simply collapse.”
Tetiana Venglinska had no choice but to hospitalize his 75-year-old mother, Eva, after three months of grueling layoffs.
Eva, who was diagnosed with lung cancer, needs to be hooked up to a device providing supplemental oxygen at all times, her daughter Tetyana said, sitting on the corner of her mother’s bed in a Kyiv hospice.
To ensure the battery life of the oxygen concentrator during endless outages at home, the family had to reduce the amount of oxygen it provided.
“For my mother, it was total torture,” Venglinska said.
“Imagine cutting your oxygen consumption three times.”
“Drinking to Victory”
The battery lasted up to eight hours, which left the family in a constant state of anxiety.
“(My husband) was afraid to come into his room every time, he didn’t know if my mother was alive…or if she had suffocated,” Venglinska said.
On the night of December 17, the outage lasted more than 10 hours, longer than usual.
With all power sources depleted and 40 minutes remaining on the ventilator battery, Tetyana called a private ambulance to hospitalize her mother.
The decision was life-saving: Venglinska’s house was without electricity for the next four days.
“She would have died for sure,” Venglinska said.
Since then, Tetyana has spent most of her time at the clinic, caring for her bedridden mother.
Her husband stayed in their apartment, where he takes care of his 85-year-old father.
“I want to go home as soon as possible,” Venglinska said. “Our family is separated.
Back in the Mozgovy house, Lyudmyla is also hoping for better days.
“We’ll definitely drink to the win… Valentyn will do it his way, through a straw, and I’ll pour myself one.”
“And (the drink) will not be weak!” she laughs.


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