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Duke nurse visits Ukraine with focus on treating PTSD in families impacted by war

Mitch Babb had come to assess the needs so Baptists on Mission could send in medical teams. One need was painfully clear - treating the post traumatic stress tormenting untold numbers of Ukrainians.

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DURHAM, N.C. — As the war rages on in Ukraine, a former nurse turned Duke executive felt compelled to visit the region himself -- and offer his help.
Mitch Babb spent more than a week in Hungary and western Ukraine. His visit was inspired by his wife – a nurse herself – who traveled to Ukraine on a medical mission a month previously. She had experienced a glimmer of the struggle of war. She saved babies in hospitals while war sirens wailed outside and brought those stories home to her husband,

Now Babb, a former emergency nurse who's now Chief Operating Officer at Duke Regional Hospital in Durham, wanted to go and help the people of Ukraine himself.

He captured the life-changing experience in photos -- photos showing beauty and humanity against the backdrop of war and pain.

Even in war, spring comes, with white blossoms on trees.

Even in war, the sky can be blue and the clouds puffy and the landscape beautiful. Even in war, the Capathian Mountains stand as lovely and strong as they have for generations.

Even in war – especially in war – people open up to one another.

It was in a warzone that Babb, who doesn't speak the language, connected with a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy who had been stunned silent by the horrors of war.

He traveled to Ukraine with the disaster relief group Baptists on Mission. In a school housing Ukrainians forced from their homes, he met that young teenage boy.

"They were concerned because he had not spoken in over two weeks since he'd been there. He was very closed off," says Babb.

Not only was he mute, his nights were sleepless. Turns out, the teen and his mother were at a train station in eastern Ukraine that had been attacked, killing dozens.

"They were some of the lucky ones who were able to get out uninjured," says Babb. "And this 13-year-old was describing his fear of going to sleep, and the only thing he could see – as he described it – were the bodies in the train station."

Babb had come to assess the needs so Baptists on Mission could send in medical teams. One need was painfully clear – treating the post traumatic stress tormenting untold numbers of Ukrainians.

"What you had were individuals who picked up overnight and left their homes, with very little of what they had of their possessions," he says.

While Babb was in Ukraine, a missile struck Lviv, 100 miles away. Even back home, he still has an air raid siren app on his phone – a reminder of the pain and horror still happening in Ukraine.

"When it does go off, I actually take a moment and say a prayer, because I have met people over there – and individuals who are still there – and it does, it does feel personal," he says.

Even in war, people seek moments of joy.

"The community felt very vibrant. There were kids in the park playing. There were families there," he recalls.

Even in war, there's a peace.

"I wasn't scared. I have strong faith in god, and I knew he put me there for a reason," he says.

Both Babb and his wife hope they can return to continue helping the people of Ukraine.

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