Dear Friends –
I wanted to provide another brief update, and if you will allow me, brag on my team – truly your team – and their accomplishments over the past week. I have been around a lot of teams – from school sports to military special operations to various health care teams, this team is the third team I have been with in Ukraine alone. And I say without reservation, that when it comes to the task that was laid out in front of them, I have seen no finer collection of individuals come together to form an even more formidable team.
As we promised, our goal was to provide medical training and equipment to the underserved in Ukraine. The needs, even 500 days into this war, remain incredible. The type of training this team provides – the prehospital trauma care – continues to be a significant gap. There is no formalized process, so consequently, it has fallen to small groups of individuals. We are so lucky to know many of these organizations and other individuals, but it is no less astonishing that it is groups like this that are really the only ones filling this training gap.
This past week, the team was in an Eastern location. For the safety of the team and those we were training, we are not going to share where that location was specifically, but we were able to stay in a house that was provided by a contact, which allowed us to save significant cost. This place was the ultimate team house – three bedrooms to house the seven of us, plus a few others who would come and go – five beds in one room, three in each of the others. Things got very cozy, very fast. For the first three days, the air conditioner didn’t work and someone broke the door latch on the only bathroom. Nothing a piece of 550 cord couldn’t fix. We also strung up a clothes line across the main bedroom to make sure we could dry our wet and muddy training gear. It was an amazing experience. More importantly, it allowed us to reach underserved areas with relative ease. Over the past week, the team traveled into areas that had never had outside trainers previously. Being able to go to them ensured that all their personnel could participate, rather than having just a few travel to a centralized training location.
The training this week was incredibly special – and equally sobering. The locations were a handful of miles from the front, and while the team took every precaution and was completely safe throughout, we could still hear the sounds of artillery and small arms fire in the distance. I have been going to war zones for the past 20 years and I have never heard anything like it. The constant barrage of fire – literally audible from the time we arrived until the time we left – was incomprehensible. Entire villages are being pulverized as the war grinds on. The medical personnel we were training are the ones that repeatedly and voluntarily venture into that hell in order to evacuate casualties – often the old and the infirm who are unwilling or unable to leave their homes. I would encourage you all to watch this clip from Sky News – it helps to underscore why we are here and the importance of the training we are doing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EptheXUe2D0).
From a team lead perspective, I am so proud. Despite this being a new environment for most of them, they rose to the occasion and did what they do best – provide the best possible training and material for pre-hospital trauma. They all had amazing attitudes, they embraced the challenging living conditions, and they focused on their work. This morning we left that area and traveled to our next training location, which will be a more urban medical setting. The team had the much-needed time to reset this afternoon and we will start again tomorrow. We will also be using this time to resupply – thanks to your incredibly generous donations, we were already able to donate a significant amount of lifesaving equipment – nearly 80 tourniquets, 80 chest decompression needles, 75 chest seals, two wound-training mannequin legs for practice, foil blankets, gauze, and so much more. We have been able to develop a wonderful relationship with a local company that is providing us training mannequins for specific procedures for free in exchange for our feedback and assistance in improving their products. All of these materials will be left in country with groups that we train to allow them to continue to practice. Finally, we were also able to provide a live demonstration of field whole blood transfusion. As someone who gets to see this team work first-hand, I can only tell you how truly remarkable each of them is.
Tomorrow we start our next block of training, and while it will certainly be different from the first part of our trip, it will undoubtedly come with its own rewards and challenges. As always, I thank you for all your support for this effort – I can assure you that the entire team appreciates your generosity, and the feedback we receive about the quality of the training is thanks to you for helping us get to where we need to be.