Bay Area nurse gives first-hand account upon return from frontlines of Ukraine war

Tara Campbell Image
Sunday, February 26, 2023
Bay Area nurse tells story upon return from frontlines of Ukraine war
A retired San Francisco nurse has returned home after nearly nine months volunteering on the frontlines in Ukraine.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A retired San Francisco nurse has returned home after nearly nine months volunteering on the frontlines in Ukraine.

"I just sit here and watch the bay, the ferries go back and forth, and listen to seagulls," said Dennis Otoshi, as he looked over the water, having just returned from Ukraine days ago. "As a registered nurse doing trauma and critical care, I came in very handy when we were transporting patients who needed that kind of assistance."

Otoshi is a volunteer with the American Red Cross, but was there on his own dime teaming up with the Ukrainian Red Cross.

ABC7 News Reporter Tara Campbell spoke with him upon his arrival last March.

EXCLUSIVE: Bay Area Red Cross volunteer helping Ukrainian refugees on front lines of war

A Bay Area volunteer with the American Red Cross traveled to Ukraine on his own to help those in need on the front lines.

"As soon as I hit the ground, I responded with the emergency response team, and we went off in an ambulance to one of the buildings that was hit by a cruise missile," said Otoshi at the time.

One attack after the next, he continued to respond. Rarely thinking of the risk.

"I just said, 'They need my help here. Where do you need me to go and what do you need me to do?'" said Otoshi, describing a moment narrowly missed by a Russian missile, his team leaving a residential building just in time.

"One of the repurposed S-300 cruise missiles landed outside the gate and created a huge crater that would be 15-to-20 meters deep. That's the kind of thing that reminds you, you are at risk. And luckily nobody was hurt but one feral cat that we treated," he said

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One particular animal capturing Otoshi's heart: a young German Shepherd abandoned and adopted by his team -- a welcomed face in the face of war.

"Unfortunately in late March, early April I went with the team to the area of Bucha and Irpin and that was horrific," he said.

In these towns, Russian soldiers left behind the causalities of war. The atrocities now well known.

"My first instinct is to run up there and check for a pulse and then the army said everyone stay away because they'll booby trap the body the person goes up there and maybe tries to roll them over to check for a pulse and there's an explosion," Otoshi said.

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And despite the "horror" as he describes, Otoshi plans on returning this spring.

"I anticipate that many of the people who fled will be coming back. They'll be coming back to their houses, their job opportunities, their schooling," he said. "And, the system is going to get kind of overwhelmed again, especially in terms of the electrical grid."

In the meantime, Otoshi's taking some time to take it all in, readying for his return.

"Even if the war would have stopped today, there is still so much to do," said Otoshi.

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