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21 Jul, 2009 06:14

US plastic surgeon works patriotic wonders in Chechnya

He is a successful plastic surgeon in the US, yet he spends his summers in Chechnya doing free surgery for anyone in need. Doctor Khasan Baiev says he will even operate on a cow if it helps save lives.

Despite having a house in the US, Chechen plastic surgeon Dr Khasan Baiev comes to Grozny every summer, which he says is for vacation. However, his trips end up more as a working holiday, as he spends most of it at his clinic.

He works non-stop without days off, literally living in his Grozny clinic where people come to from all around. He says he is simply unable to refuse anyone help.

Dr Baiev is always ready to treat for free. Many regard him as nothing less than a medical magician and savior, but the modest surgeon is not seeking self-promotion. Curing is his duty, he says.

During the two counter-terrorist operations in Chechnya, his work was often a matter of life and death – and a long way from cosmetic surgery. How many people owe their lives to him is unknown, but Dr Baiev is a legend for locals.

It was not just his medical genius that won him fame. During the conflicts he is remembered for his courage and bravery.

The surgeon performed more than 10,000 operations, saving many lives, in the most primitive conditions – such as without electricity, or in bomb-shelters, sometimes without even basic drugs or medicines.

“I’ve never asked my patients where they came from or what their faith and political stance was. I just saw the wounds, I saw people that needed my help. After that my mission was over. I was not a police officer to inquire who was on the operating table in front of me,” Khasan Baiev says.

In accordance with the letter of the Hippocratic Oath he took as a doctor, Baiev treated anyone in need of medical attention regardless of who they were. Both militants and federal servicemen came under his care.

Top Chechen militant Salman Raduev was also one of his patients, arriving gravely injured. Successful surgery followed, but once the militants found out that Dr Baiev was also treating Russians, they vowed to kill him. He was about to be shot, but the atrocity was prevented by the arrival of patients searching in desperation for the famed doctor.

“In any war a doctor who carries out his professional duty can become a victim. It is always a risk, since patients come from both sides of the conflict,” says Khasan Baiev.

He could have left the battle zone any time, but never did. Colleagues say that Dr Baiev is a real fighter who would never hesitate in his duty. Even when a cow was injured by shrapnel, he did everything he could to save it to help locals survive.

“We were under siege and there was nowhere to buy food. People started to starve. If a cow died, little children would not have anything to eat at all. So I had to operate on a cow to save the children,” Khasan Baiev says.