British Columbia

'I've never seen a place so obliterated': B.C. doctor returns from 6 weeks in Iraq performing surgeries

B.C. orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steve Mc Vicar spent six weeks in the war-ravaged city of Mosul in northern Iraq doing reconstructive surgery on more than 100 people injured during the 2017 liberation of the city from the militant group ISIS.

Dr. Steve McVicar treated more than 100 victims of the war against ISIS in Mosul

Dr. Steve Mc Vicar performed more than 100 reconstructive surgeries on people caught up in the war against ISIS in the city of Mosul, Iraq. (Steve Mc Vicar)

British Columbia orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steve McVicar has recently returned from a six-week mission in the war-ravaged city of Mosul in northern Iraq doing reconstructive surgery on more than 100 people injured during the 2017 liberation of the city from the militant group ISIS.

McVicar, who lives in Rossland, B.C., went to Iraq as part of a specialized surgical team with Doctors Without Borders and was the first Canadian surgeon deployed to the region.

The surgeries were performed in a mobile surgical trailer transported by trucks into the city.

"I've never seen a place so obliterated, so flattened, so lifeless," said McVicar, who has been to Afghanistan multiple times for similar work.

"There was a lot of dead animals — something you don't really see over here — on the side of the road. There was bonfires on the side of the road with people around trying to keep warm. It was unsettling to see that.

"That was mentally challenging to see."

Large areas of Mosul, Iraq were destroyed in a bombing effort to drive ISIS from the city in 2017. (Steve McVicar)

Still suffering

The 2017 battle to take back Mosul from ISIS killed thousands of people, displaced nearly one million others and left large areas of the city in ruins.

A year-and-a-half later, many are still suffering with untreated or improperly treated injuries, said McVicar.

His surgical team performed about six reconstructive operations a day for a period of six weeks.

"People with limb deformities, wounds where there was exposed bone, chronic infected wounds and fractures that weren't going on to heal," he said.

Apart from the the physical injuries, McVicar said signs of the emotional and psychological toil of the conflict were everywhere. 

All of the Iraqi doctors he worked with spoke of losing someone to the conflict, he said.

"They all lost a family member. But they seem to be resilient. They want their country back and they want to build their country again."

Dr. Mc Vicar performed reconstruction surgeries on people who were injured in the conflict. (Steve Mc Vicar)

Now back in Rossland, McVicar said he's trying to digest everything he experienced over the past month and a half, something he says is always a challenge after returning from a war-torn region of the world.

"The first week I'm always in a bit of a fog," he said.

"It just takes a little bit of time to get used to civilization back here compared to what I came from."

About the Author

Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan

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