By Sara Bondell - May 05, 2022
In a hospital in Kharkiv, Ukraine, medical staff use a donated ultrasound machine to evaluate a 1-month-old baby with a skull fracture.
Doctors in Zaporizhzhia treat a Ukrainian soldier whose forearm bone was shattered by a bullet. Using a donated external fixation device, they stabilize and properly align his bone. The doctors then treat another soldier wounded by a mine using a donated ultrasound machine to identify his injuries and place an access line to quickly administer pain medication.
These three lives, and many others wounded during the war in Ukraine, were saved thanks to donated medical equipment.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has overwhelmed hospitals across the country trying to treat soldiers and civilians with limited access to medical supplies.
“It’s very difficult to find the words that truly encompass my feelings,” said Dr. Inna Smalley, a researcher at Moffitt Cancer Center who grew up in Ukraine. “It’s devastating, scary, stressful, disturbing. I feel guilt for being here while many of my family and friends are there.”
That includes Smalley’s grandfather, a 97-year-old World War II veteran who fought on the front lines against the Nazis. He has skin cancer and cannot find the medical care he needs because of the war.
Smalley wanted to turn her feeling of hopelessness into a tangible way to support her native country. She started approaching other Ukrainians around Moffitt and in the community, and they quickly formed the group now called Medical Help Ukraine.
"We found each other in this dark time and were united by this single goal of saving Ukrainian lives."- Dr. Inna Smalley, Cancer Physiology Program
“We found each other in this dark time and were united by this single goal of saving Ukrainian lives. What can we do to have the most impact immediately?” said Smalley. “We looked at our backgrounds and saw medical and humanitarian aid would be our strength — let’s help keep Ukrainians alive. We had direct connections to physicians in Ukraine to find out what the needs are and we had connections in global logistics to deliver directly to hospitals there.”
Thanks to monetary donations, as well as equipment donations from multiple organizations, Medical Help Ukraine has collected lifesaving equipment including portable ultrasound machines, surgical instruments, orthopedic devices, C-Arm imaging machines and orthopedic implants. The group then coordinates with doctors in Ukraine to make sure the right hospitals are getting the right items.
Medical Help Ukraine has shipped more than $1.5 million worth of medical equipment and supplies to hospitals around Ukraine. In return, doctors have sent back dozens of photos of the equipment being used to save lives.
“I got into cancer research because it was my life goal to help people in whatever small way I could and it’s amazing being able to be part of this group of people providing this critical medical help,” Smalley said.
Medical Help Ukraine is now coordinating a second large wave of shipments to key hospitals in other cities treating many patients who are in the greatest need. The group hopes to become an official nonprofit in the future.
“I am so taken back by the generosity of people willing to donate time and resources to this,” said Smalley. “We had this feeling of helplessness and then we realized how strong we were as a group. It really is not any one person and I am amazed at how it all came together.”
To learn more about the team, their efforts and for ways you can help, click here.