Refugee doctor working in Cambridge spends holiday saving lives in Ukraine

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A doctor who fled Syria as a medical student in 2012 and sought refuge in the UK has spent his holiday leave to support people fleeing Ukraine. 

Dr Tirej Brimo, a Kurd, has spent the past seven weeks treating people leaving the country in the face of the Russian invasion.

He said his experience of leaving Syria had fuelled his desire to travel to Ukraine, saying that this time he "chose a different destiny".

He initially worked at two border crossings where thousands of people were queuing every day to cross the border out of Ukraine into Poland.

"In my very first week, a paramedic and I saw 339 patients. Presentations could vary from simple over the counter medication, to complex wounds and emergencies” he said. 

He then moved to Lviv, the largest city in the West of Ukraine, and helped start a clinic near the main train station. 

"At Lviv train station, the situation was horrid. Every day we got dozens of trains from eastern Ukraine - trains full of injured people, and trains full of refugees who just wanted to flee and leave everything behind.

"It was really difficult when people came into the train station to collect relatives who had died in the conflict - a father, a sister. As a doctor, this is where I felt most helpless.”

Lviv came under attack from Russian bombs Credit: AP

Dr Brimo was in the final year of medical school at Aleppo University when he had to flee conflict in 2012.

He escaped to Lebanon, crossed the Middle East and arrived in Britain in 2013 as a refugee before graduating as a doctor in London in 2017. 

His journey to become a doctor took him through four countries, four medical schools, 10 cities and 21 homes. Now Dr Brimo is an emergency doctor at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

"In the Syrian war 10 years ago, I ran away. I was a student and felt helpless. In Ukraine, I chose a different destiny. I chose to be there and stand up for what I believe in.”

Dr Tirej Brimo outside his clinic Credit: Tirej Brimo

"Sadly, the atrocities of war are similar. The horror in people’s faces, backpacks that have been filled in a rush, and children who have lost their spark, are some of the images that stay with me.

"War is like a nightmare you can’t wake up from".

Dr Brimo is not the only medic from Addenbrooke’s to be supporting people in Ukraine. 

A group at the hospital have developed video tutorials for colleagues in Ukraine to help them manage trauma cases during the conflict.