by Sevak Hakobyan

Aygina Yuzbashyan is a native of Kaghartsi, a small village in Artsakh’s Martuni Region. Located about 20 miles from Stepanakert, Kaghartsi has a population of 300.

“Although our village is not close to the border, we’ve all felt the effects of war on our own skin,” says Mrs. Aygina, a 51-year-old grandmother. “Most of our young people fought in the war. During the 1990s, when there was constant shelling from Aghdam, our village, too, was devastated and there were many victims. My husband fought in that war, and my sons fought in the April War of 2016. Thank God, they’ve all returned home safe and sound.”

Despite all the difficulties they’ve experienced over the years, Mrs. Aygina and her family have never thought of leaving their birthplace. Mrs. Aygina has two sons and two married daughters.

“There isn’t much to do in Kaghartsi,” Mrs. Aygina says. “We raise livestock, like everybody else in the village. But for the past seven or eight years, I’ve had great difficulty doing house chores, because of severe pain in my right knee.” In 2013, Mrs. Aygina had surgery in Yerevan. But her pain was back two years later, as the cartilage around her knee had deteriorated.

“In early 2018, I heard that a large team of doctors from America was going to come to the Stepanakert hospital to perform free surgeries. So I came to Stepanakert in February for an evaluation, and was scheduled for surgery. I came back in September, and here we are,” Mrs. Aygina says with a smile, moments after her procedure. She then adds, with a sense of awe in her voice: “My surgery lasted close to three hours, yet I don’t feel the slightest pain right now. I’m deeply grateful to the volunteer doctors from America. I have never seen such marvelous care.”

Mrs. Aygina was operated on by volunteer doctors from the United States, who had come to Stepanakert as part of the latest medical mission organized jointly by Armenia Fund and Adventist Health, and implemented at both Noyemberyan Hospital, in Armenia, and the Stepanakert Republican Medical Center. The mission to Stepanakert was being embarked on for the first time since the start of the program in 2015, with the goal of not only providing free medical care and prescriptions to the local populace, but raising the technical and professional capacities of the Stepanakert Republican Medical Center to the next level.

From September 27 through October 5, the volunteer doctors from the US provided an extensive range of medical services to close to 1,040 patients from Stepanakert and other regions of Artsakh. The services included groundbreaking procedures such as total knee-replacements; gastrointestinal (GI), brain-aneurism, ophthalmological, and cancer surgeries; as well as endoscopies, colonoscopies, cerebral angiographies, and dialysis treatments, with the key aim of training local doctors in the latest approaches and techniques pertaining to their fields of specialty. As significantly, Armenia Fund provided the Stepanakert hospital with a complete suite of state-of-the-art GI machinery for screenings and surgical procedures, as well as leading-edge ophthalmological and orthopedics equipment and implants, in addition to large quantities of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.

Mrs. Aygina hopes for a fast recovery. She says she’s a “rich” grandma, given the fact that she has five grandchildren. “A girl and four boys — all future soldiers,” she says. “My children and grandkids have come to the hospital to visit me, but they can’t see me just yet because I’m in recovery. Of course it’s completely understandable, especially since there is a lot happening in the hospital, with such a large medical team performing so many surgeries and other services.”

Mrs. Aygina continues, her voice quivering with emotion: “You know, our nation has gone through a lot. And we still face the danger of war. But it’s so wonderful that there are good people like these volunteer doctors, who don’t forget about their Homeland despite living far away. Not only that, they bring their colleagues along, to be of help to us.”

The doctors have advised Mrs. Aygina not to engage in any strenuous activity. Although it would be unlike her to refrain from hard work, she has promised to take good care of herself. After all, she will need to be in tip-top shape to do the things she has been looking forward to, which include contributing to preparations for her youngest son’s wedding, and, of course, helping raise her grandchildren. “I promise to look after myself,” she says. “I will not throw away the good work of my doctors!”

HELP US EXPAND OUR MEDICAL MISSIONS TO THE HOMELAND: With your generous support today, Armenia Fund will be able to expand the scope of its medical missions to Armenia and Artsakh, with the twin goals of elevating the technical and professional capabilities of medical centers, and providing high-quality care to economically vulnerable communities.

Photo Credit: Areg Balayan