Força Ukraine Update- Week 3: March 23rd, 2024

Dear friends –

Apologies for the delay in our week 3 update – a lack of internet connectivity in our last location made it impossible to keep everyone apprised of everything that has been going on, and there is a lot! The team just moved to what is likely our last training location, having spent the last week in an area in the north of the country. Our trip to that location was sobering – early in the war, it was one of the many areas that ground troops used to invade Ukraine. Many of the villages we drove through had been abandoned early in the war, but those that had been reinhabited had recently been evacuated again due to the increase in shelling in the region. In the week before our arrival and during our time there, the northern part of the Oblast (Ukrainian region analogous to a state) was shelled hundreds of times per day. In addition, on Thursday night, Russia launched a massive air strike of 150 drones and cruise missiles at primarily infrastructure targets across Ukraine. These attacks struck major urban centers in all parts of the country, causing civilian casualties and knocking out power in parts of every major city. We have become somewhat used to the constant air raid alarms, but this is an everyday reality across Ukraine. School children go to classes in subway stations as they are safer underground, people sleep in interior hallways to try to avoid shrapnel and flying glass from explosions, and first responders are called upon to treat patients with war injuries. The reality here is stark, but we as a team are so humbled by the medics that we meet and train – their commitment despite their day to day reality and the losses they have suffered is truly remarkable. They are perpetually under-supplied, and their equipment barebones (ambulance picture, attached). Thanks to your generosity with donations, we have been able to provide nearly $14,000 in medical donations (like new tourniquets from our friends at Dnipro Tourniquet).

This past week, we had the chance to work with some very advanced medics, and continue to refine their pre-hospital skill. Yesterday was the culminating day, where we demonstrated field whole blood transfusions – always my favorite of the things we teach – as well as surgical airways, and needle and surgical chest decompression. The team continues to get lauded by those that we train – in this case, they were told it is the best medical training that has been available since the start of the war in February 2022. These medics also have the benefit of working with a foreign austere medical doctor, who was also able to attend our training. We knew going in that she would be both an asset and could provide validation for what we do – as a doctor in her own right, she knows what good training is. To have her also be incredibly complimentary of the team and the work only verified what I already knew about these incredible trainers – they are so good at what they do and are totally committed to providing the best possible training. Dr. Steve and Emily are so well versed in trauma medicine, and our interpreters Bohdan, Vik and Yulia have so much experience translating these courses, they are experts in their own right. We are so incredibly lucky to have the team we do and to have their willingness to go to where the needs are the greatest. That is definitely a unique feature of our work here.

We were thrilled to be joined by a Ukrainian Medical Resident this week. Susanna has worked with some of our team members before, and in addition to being a resident, also provides trauma training in a local training center. Fluent in both English and Ukrainian, she is a true asset (in black, allowing us to show how to start an IV). The Força Foundation sponsored Susanna with the help of a partner organization to attend a week-long trauma symposium in Italy in February and she joined us this week to reinforce that training, observe how our team conducts its work, and to help transfer the amazing experience she received in Italy to her colleagues. Susanna embodies what Força Ukraine is attempting to help establish here – an organic training capability of these amazing Ukrainian providers who can continue the work we have been doing long after the team has to retrofit back to the US.

This week was also our first without Finch this mission, as he had to return to the US due to his job schedule. He is safely home, and while the team misses him greatly, we are so thankful for all the work he has done to get Força Ukraine to where it is today. Not only is he an excellent trainer and teammate, Finch tirelessly spreads the word at home about the continued plight in Ukraine and the work we do here. Finch is a true friend, dedicated to the Ukrainian people, effective medical training, and his teammates.

We somehow just have one week to go in Ukraine. This time is always so hard for me personally because I want the mission to continue. The work is critically important, but I also just love this team so much and I hate to see this time with them come to an end. They are all such incredible people, so dedicated to their craft and to Ukraine. They are kind, generous, compassionate – people absolutely love them and I see why.

goes on, but as always, thank you so much for all you do for us – your donations make everything we do possible, your messages get read to the whole team to great appreciation. You have made this trip what it is and we cannot thank you enough.

In gratitude – Mike

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