Doctors as magicians
Doctor of Medical Sciences Vasily Melnik knows everything about human ears, throats and noses
Doctor of Medical Sciences Vasily Melnik knows everything about human ears, throats and noses, while developing new treatment methods and operational instruments already widely used in clinics countrywide.
Not long ago, patient Svetlana Skridlevskaya was operated upon at the Interior Ministry’s Republican Hospital, to have a cyst removed from her left maxillary sinus. She admits that she was afraid of the operation, which was her second within a year under general anaesthetic. However, Dr. Melnik calmed her, explaining the operation in detail, and the post-surgical care, given at the highest level.
Yekaterina Zhurimskaya is also thankful to Dr. Melnik, for correcting her nasal septum, allowing her to easily breathe through her nose: a problem she has endured since a childhood injury.
The doctor accepts the fears, joys and words of gratitude from patients as a matter of course, having heard them for the past three decades. Responsible for around 10,000 operations (up to 300 a year), he has corrected septums, removed cysts and polyps, cut gristles and used laser manipulation.
At present, Mr. Melnik has an office of his own, with the newest equipment. He also conducts operations in a separate surgical room. After graduation from Borisov Medical College, he began his career as a primary health worker at a district hospital in modest Zembin, in the Borisov District, relying on the mastery of his hands and speedy reactions. Later, he worked at clinics in Stish and Baran, in the same district.
“People become ill everywhere,” Mr. Melnik comments. “We need to treat, help and save them, everywhere.” In the past, the young specialist delivered babies, set bones and stitched cuts, learning all aspects of his ‘trade’. In the army, he gave first aid training to soldiers and then decided to become a surgeon.
After graduating from the Medical Institute, he was sent to work in Kopyl, where there was a single vacancy, for an otolaryngologist. In that first year of work, he conducted almost 200 operations, developing this branch of the hospital from scratch.
He passed an internship at Minsk Regional Hospital, under the guidance of Professor Vyacheslav Bystrenin and Head of Otolaryngology Department Vladislav Postoyalkov, and, years later, they invited Vasily from Kopyl to the Regional Hospital. “Doctors usually face severe cases and pathologies at regional hospitals,” Dr. Melnik explains, recollecting one village case where a man had warmed his ear too close to the stove, in an attempt to remove an obstruction. He had to lance the cranial fossa and clean it.
Another patient was a boy who had swallowed a badge. The pin clicked open inside his stomach, requiring extraction. Dr. Melnik tried his hand at plastic surgery when a woman badly damaged her face after a bike crash. Amazingly, she was left with only a small scar left, inspiring her to call him ‘a magician’.
Since 1983, Dr. Melnik has worked at the Interior Ministry’s Republican Hospital, where he has gained his doctor’s and candidate’s degrees, and has developed and patented five methods of treatment of ear, nose and throat problems.
“Vasily Melnik is unique,” asserts the Head Doctor of the Interior Ministry’s Republican Hospital. “He excels practically and has defended a candidate’s paper and a doctor’s paper. He’s truly appreciated and is a great inventor. His inventing streak has brought about our staff naming him ‘Kulibin’ — in honour of the famous Russian inventor. Doctors from other Belarusian clinics and abroad come to consult with Dr. Melnik.”
Mr. Melnik began developing new methods and inventing instruments while working at the Regional Hospital. “A single wrong action by a surgeon during an operation on a sphenoid sinus can lead to blindness, or brain damage,” underlines the doctor, showing us a dummy skull, with the air sinus, main nerves and brain.
“With Professor Bustrenin, we’ve developed a special instrument: a frieze. Its circled tip cannot damage other organs,” explains Dr. Melnik, who has developed a set of instruments to treat the nose, throat and ear. These are being made at Minsk’s Integral Plant and many Belarusian doctors already use them. Dr. Melnik also uses them sometimes, but tends to now rely on his laser, which he has proven aids faster healing: an experimental first in Belarus.
Dr. Melnik’s recent laser developments treat snoring, which he calls ‘a serious problem’ since it deprives the brain of oxygen, which can cause headaches and heart problems. He admits, “The results of our treatment are positive and we’re treating up to three patients a week.”
Dr. Melnik has to daily fight against pharyngitis, maxillites, chronic rhinitis, adenoids, enlarged tonsils, cysts and polyps. However, fewer cases are being registered, which he believes may be due to cleaner air quality. “Nose mucosa act as a filter, to protect us from harmful substances,” he explains. “If too many grow, it creates problems, but surgery can be used to remove them.”
Dr. Melnik advises that we take care not to ignore signs of illness, or to try self-treatment. People need to consult doctors and, to avoid relapse, it’s vital to take care of your nasal cavity by inhaling with a salt solution twice daily. There’s no need to be frightened of surgery, since the latest methods and equipment allow professionals to intervene with minimum ‘damage’.
Treatment at the Interior Ministry’s Republican Hospital is available not only to staff of the Interior Ministry but to any Belarusian or foreign resident
By Yekaterina Medvedskaya
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