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A journalist, who was an eyewitness to the events, talks
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, 26 2002

Truth and untruth about how they saved hostages in the hospital

Physicians from City Hospital #1 did not know what kind of casaulties to expect from the theater center. Theywere ready for gunshot wounds, but a number of the freed hostages had simply suffocated during transport.

Russian Health Minister Shevchenko yesterday revealed at a press conference that, while using gas in the hostage rescue operation at the theater center, specialists were warned about the gas, including myself. Eventhough the operation was of an urgently necessary character, we had prepared more than 1000doses of antidote. Let us leave these words on the conscience of the minister, and those who forced him to utterthem.

And, without further commentary, we will describe the first hours after the storming of the Dubrovka center, and what actually went on in the emergency room of Moscow City Hospital #1. Inthe words of the physicians, nurses, and other witnesses.

What little the workers in the emergency department knew about the assault on the theater, they found out only from brief announcements on the news. Theintensive care unit had but 12beds, and 10were already in use by the usual victims of automobile accidents. Noneof the physicians expected the delivery of mass casualties to their department. Theywere more worried about colleagues whom they knew would face this disaster, which they guessed would consist of many gunshot wounds.

No one paid attention to the khaki-colored UAZ van, a box-like vehicle that pulled up to the side doors of the ER at about 9am. Thedriver did not know that the doors on the other side were always open, but instead he banged against the locked personnel entrance for several minutes.

When the door was finally answred, the UAZ crew opened the sliding door of their vehicle. Thehair on the ER workers' head stood on end. Inside the 12-seat UAZ van were stacked in the literal sense of the word 30(THIRTY) victims. Motionless. Without gunshot wounds. TheUAZ crew could not say a word about the character of the victims' injuries.

The first mission of the emergency personnel was to simply unload the vehicle. Luckily, it was good timing shift change and their were twice the number of medics in the department. Anewspaperman who found himself on the scene at first tried to work as a reporter, but under the withering stares of the emergency personnel, he was soon helping the medics transport the victims into theER.

It immediately became clear that several of the victims were already dead in the vehicle. Notfrom the gas, but from being suffocated under the weight of other bodies. Atthe very bottom of the pile was a 13-year-old girl. Diagnosis: crushed todeath.

Physicians in the course of their duties often work with Fentanyl, and they understood what they were dealing with from the smell. Thecharacteristic semi-sweet, almond smell was so strong on the victims' clothes that several nurses complained of dizziness and nausea.

The victims were dragged into the ER and quickly filled all free space in the department. Eventhe floor. Thesecret 'antidote' for Fentanyl was very simple, and the ER had a lot of it. Theybegan injecting it. Inthe confusion of dragging bodies to and fro no one was prepared for such a number of casaulties some patients were overlooked, and some received multiple injections. Later they started marking the arms of those who had received the antidote.

All, who were not crushed during transport, weresaved.

The physicians had but one regret if only they had known that these victims were being brought in, they would brought gurneys from the hospital's upper floors down to the ER, instead of dragging critically-ill patients around on the floor. Andanother thing the doctors wished they could have warned other hospitals. City Hospital #13, for instance, did not know what it was dealing with, and had no emergency department, either.

Later in the day the chief physician strayed into the ER, and began shouting that some hospital personnel were not wearing their surgery caps. Itwas unsanitary, you see. Heasked one doctor: Why are you wearing torn slippers? The physician: I have no others. To which the head doctor replied: Fine, I'll send you a pair in lieu of a bonus.

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