A Kernow Health paramedic is travelling to Ukraine this weekend in a bid to help people fleeing the country following the month-long Russian invasion. Lester Bignell, who you will usually find visiting patients across the county of Cornwall, felt the pull to use his vital medical skills to help those suffering with injuries or illnesses caused by the conflict. We spoke to Lester before he left for Uzhhorod – a city in western Ukraine – where he will join other volunteers:
"I saw the devastating scenes from Ukraine and the mass migration of people being forced from their homes ... I just wanted to see if there was any way I could help directly and get involved using our skillset ."
The Advanced Paramedic has been granted special leave from his usual role in the out-of-hours team at Kernow Health to spend three weeks caring for those most in need on the Slovakian/Ukranian border. Speaking about his employer, who have allowed time away from usual duties, he said: "Kernow Health have been fantastic altering my shifts and giving me the time off. I've had full support from Mark Woolcock, the CEO. It's been great."
Lester said he doesn't know what to expect when he arrives, but he will call on his experience both as a paramedic for 17 years and his time in the army from 1995 to 2000: "I went to Bosnia and Northern Ireland. I wasn't a medic at that time, so it is seeing things from a slightly different side, but obviously you're seeing your effects of conflict.
I've got emergency care experience and primary care experience, and also minor injuries as well. So it covers quite a large area of medical expertise ... I'm guessing it might be clearing casualties from a casualty clearing station where they've been evacuated to a certain point and they may need transfer to some more secondary care facility."
Lester is a dad of three and reflects on what it will be like for his wife and children while he's gone: "It's hard on my family just dealing with normal life back here. For me, once once you're there, all the normal noise of normal life sort of goes a bit."