After attending a training carried out by FAR for the nurses from the communities of Artsakh, Bagyum Avanesyan changed her approach to how she treats diabetic patients.

“I had limited knowledge of nutritional guidelines for diabetes. But after the training, I started emphasizing the importance of integrating herbs into patients’ daily intakes—things like bay leaf and purple basil, which grow locally and which help to combat diabetes and high blood pressure,” said the 33-year-old R.N. from Talish Village in Artsakh’s Martakert Region. “I have seen improvements amongst my patients with this as many of them have minimized their use of insulin.”

Bagyum claims that the number of patients with diabetes in her region of Artsakh expanded after the Four-Day War of April 2016 when the people of Talish had to escape their homes as clashes erupted in the dead of night.

“Immediately after the war, 16 people, including me, were diagnosed with diabetes. That was a nightmare we will never forget,” she recollected bitterly, a result of the stress and fear brought on by the war. “On April 2nd we heard shelling, something we’d become used to hearing on and off since 2014. However, that very same night soldiers from Azerbaijan fired at the military unit, shooting right over my house. Luckily, we were not hit. When the firing came too close, me and my husband took our kids down the cellar and sat there, half naked, until the firing stopped.”

As dawn broke the next morning, Bagyum, her husband, Fedya, and their two kids, Samvel, 10, and Alyona, 12, grabbed their most necessary documents, some clothing to cover their bare arms and shoulders, and fled.

For the next few months, the family stayed at Bagyum’s parents’ place in nearby Askeran Region. In September 2016, they, along with 13 other families from Talish Village, were temporarily relocated by Artsakh’s government to a defunct military hospital in the Alashan District of the Martakert Region. After the war, the government deemed Talish as an uninhabitable “neutral” zone along the border. They are currently working on building new housing in a different territory for those who’ve been relocated. So far, 42 have been either built or reconstructed.

For now, however, Bagyum and her family call the hospital home, with one of the former recovery rooms their temporary apartment and the operating room currently being used as a makeshift school. Other residents of Talish have set up their own temporary housing or domiks in the vicinity.

The hospital was previously closed due to its pervasive humidity, which prevented proper healing. However, the people of Talish were moved to this building temporarily because it is close to Talish and the military base where many residents work. It is equipped with heat, water and electricity, and has the capacity to house several families. The humidity is still an issue, however Bagyum has become the de facto healthcare provider for the 540 people who are staying in and around the hospital. She often visits her patients in their domiks. Her major concern for now is the excessive moisture. “The building is damp and surrounded by thick trees and greens. Some residents have high blood pressure, others have problems with their spinal cord, and many kids have developed rheumatism,” she said.

The Talish nurse will start working out of a new medical center in the region, which is expected to open around September. She is looking forward to passing on her new-found skills to the colleagues she’ll be supervising.

“The Artsakh program was just 12 days, however I became firm friends with many nurses and doctors from Martakert region in this short period. We keep in touch when we need to in order to discuss diseases and diagnoses. I would like such programs to be held more often,” said Bagyum. “While more violence could erupt at any time in the region, I now feel that I have a more profound knowledge of first aid than I did before, and that I can handle any task. All we want is a peaceful life in our village. No one wants war.”

The ToT is part of FAR’s brand-new Training of Artsakh Regional Nurses Program, and includes interactive theoretical and practical courses taught at Armenia’s National Institute of Health in Yerevan and other relevant medical centers. The program, which was made possible thanks to the visionary generosity of the Nazarian Family Foundation and the continuing guidance and support of outstanding FAR friend Dr. Raffy Hovanessian, aims to empower more than 400 nurses from Artsakh over the course of three years.