21-year-old Albert Dallakyan has struggled to rebound from a devastating gunshot wound to the head last year in June while serving at a military base in Artsakh. His road to recovery isn’t over.
It was during his eleventh month of service when he was accidentally shot in the head by his lieutenant, who was fooling around with another soldier’s gun.
The young soldier’s family is desperately trying to raise money so that they can send Albert overseas for much needed surgery.
The family moved from Vanadzor (Armenia) to Rostov-on-Don (Russia) in 2007. He was a second-year student at Rostov State University’s Dept. of Business Administration when he decided to take a leave of absence and return to Armenia to serve in the army. Albert was dispatched to Artsakh.
At that time, his parents were in Armenia to solve some issues with documents. His mother, Armineh, recalls that he called and said that if he didn’t go to army, who else would defend the country. She says she was against Albert's decision, but her husband encouraged their son.
After receiving first aid on the spot, Albert was taken to the hospital in Martouni. Armineh says the doctors were amazed that he survived the gunshot.
"The bullet entered one part of the head and exited the other. Smashing the left hemisphere, it passed through the small brain, damaging the main vessel,” Armineh says.
In January this year, Armenia’s Investigative Committee released a statement saying that as a result of violating the rules of weapons handling, Lieutenant A. Nahapetyan accidentally pressed the trigger after loading the rifle, causing the bullet to hit Dallakyan’s head, and threatening his life.
Nahapetyan has been charged under Article 373 (2) of the RA Criminal Code (Breach of rules for handling weapons, ammunition and radioactive materials, explosives and other items and devices dangerous for the environment, which negligently caused minor or medium-gravity damage to human health, is punished with disciplinary battalion for the term of 1 to 3 years, or with imprisonment for up to 4 years).
Taking one of the medical folders, and opening the X-ray papers, Armineh describes the current situation of her son. His memory has been restored and his sight has partially improved over the past few months.
"Albert's eyes see a narrow spectrum. One eye sees only the front area, and the other - only laterally. I talked to the doctors about this. They said it’s not possible to restore it. There are scars on his corneas and his sight cannot be completely restored, " says his mother.
Armineh says her son has started to experience paralysis. "Albert gets paralyzed for half an hour, and loses consciousness for one hour. He says, ‘Mother, I'm paralyzed, I'm paralyzed’. I hug his lifeless body and see his black face," says the 39-year-old mother. The last time it happened was around three months ago.
"We were going to have plastic surgery. They had to bring titanium from Germany, but during one of the studies, it turned out that the vessel in Albert's head had been cut off, and the vessel and an artery had stuck together, making something like a cyst. Now I'm very afraid. If the pressure rises and it explodes, it's irreversible. Once we went to the doctor, and the doctor said, ‘It’s like walking with a bomb in the head: it can explode any second, even due to sneezing’. Now this vessel surgery must be performed, "Armineh says.
Two months ago, Armineh applied to the Ministry of Defense for the surgery. The ministry replied that there were doctors in Armenia who could perform such surgeries. Armineh met with these doctors. She says one of the doctors said that he doesn’t perform such an operation unless there’s a hemorrhage. Another said they had no equipment for such case.
Armineh says such surgeries are performed only at the Heratsi No. 1 Hospital in Armenia, but they only started in 2010.
"They offer to close those parts of the vessel, but they have neither the experience nor equipment. They offer a risky option and say they cannot guarantee anything. I realize that nobody can give a 100-percent guarantee even in the case of routine operations. We’ve gone through so much. The boy has undergone three severe surgeries, but now I cannot approve a measure for which we have no guarantees,” says Armineh.
She says they are receiving greater guarantees from medical centers in Moscow and Germany, but they need a large amount of money for the surgery. Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany responded that neurosurgeons estimated the total cost of the surgery at $35,200.
Armineh says the Defense Ministry told her it cannot pay for surgeries abroad. The mother doesn’t know what to do: she feels powerless and angry.
"Well, the soldier was injured and is now in such a state. Is that it? They don’t need him anymore? Have they closed the page on my son? Albert receives a state disability pension of 91,000 drams. It’s the only support from the state. The medicine alone we buy for him costs 120,000 drams a month, " Armineh says.
The family has rented a house in Yerevan’s Erebouni District. There are many expenses. Armineh’s husband works in Rostov-on-Don, but it’s not that he earns much there.
With help from the Satar NGO for the Disabled, Albert enrolled at Yerevan State University this year as a correspondence student in management.
Because his memory was damaged due to the head injury, Albert attends speech therapy classes. He’s relearned the letters, and reads and writes.
"Can you imagine a student having to learn the alphabet over again? Do you think I am happy about it? I don’t know what to say," says the mother, looking at her son’s notebook.
Armineh says Albert dreams of graduating from university and working. She says he doesn’t know that a complicated surgery soon awaits him.
"I look at him, and he seems content, but my heart trembles when I think of awaits him," says the despondent mother.
She then pulls out a piece of paper with the Unibank accounts she has opened for donations for her son’s surgery, preferably abroad.
“This situation I’m in, begging, irritates me. Who’s to blame? I don’t know. My son took a leave of absence to serve in the army. Who’s answerable for what happened?”
P.S. These are the Unibank accounts that Armineh Ghazaryan has opened in her name:
24100365620400 - AMD
24100365620401 - USD
24100365620402 - EURO