Plea to Diaspora for Medical Help

Medical supplies for the Maidan and now for the Ukrainian military is a major area where the Diaspora has been helping Ukraine for many months. Among the initiatives in this sphere is a project “Patriot Defence” funded by the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) and led by its Kyiv-based Director of Humanitarian Initiatives Dr. Ulana Suprun.
The project, which aims to help save lives in combat, provides medical training and equipment to the Ukrainian military. The project delivers Combat Lifesaver courses (CLS) and Improved First Aid Kits (IFAKs) to Ukrainian soldiers. The Patriot Defence’s goal is to deliver 10,000 IFAKs to Ukraine.
On August 21, 2014 Larysa Zariczniak of the New Pathway sat down with Dr. Ulana Surpun to discuss the various ways that the Diaspora can aid in the war in Ukraine. Dr. Surpun acknowledges that the project was influenced by her experience on the Maidan. She and her husband both came to Ukraine in November 2013 and witnessed the horrifying events unfold before their eyes in February 2014.
Dr. Surpun was at the time volunteering in the Kyiv City Hall and on February 20, a boy named Vlad from Kharkiv was brought into the medical wing having been shot in the side. “The place was so full that we sat the stretcher down in the middle of the floor and I called over the other medics…and there was blood being poured out and you could hear a sucking sound…we had nothing. Our operating tables were cabinets that we flipped over and put sheets over…There was one army surgeon and the rest of us were civilians: there was one dentist, a surgeon, a radiologist, several nurses, it was just a mish-mash…I started an IV and what we basically did was a transfusion: I went into the hallway and everyone had their blood type written on their arms and I just shouted out ‘who’s got his blood type’ and one guy ran in and we took blood from his veins into a syringe and pushed it into Vlad so we can keep him stable…All the ambulances were told not to come to the Maidan…and I called the army surgeon over to look at it. And he said ‘there’s nothing I can do, take him to the hospital.’ So we covered him back up and there was a regular car out there and we drove up sidewalks to get him to the hospital. Later that evening, the medic came in and said he was alive…But seven days later, I was planning on going to visit him at the hospital but the medic called and said he died. He was the last to die that week…” Dr. Surpun believes that if they had more equipment and the right equipment, if they knew how to treat gunshot wounds properly, maybe they would have helped the man.
When the ATO started in the east, she and her husband realized after talking to some soldiers, that “they don’t have any first-aid kids. They didn’t have anything except for some rolls of gauze and a couple of bandages.” What followed was an initiative that would spread throughout the world taking Ukrainian donations from Australia, Canada, USA, Austria, Czech Republic and many more countries.
They researched what NATO and the American army use as first aid kids, bought 250 of them and brought them to Ukraine. As Dr. Surpun states: “we took the first aid kits and handed them over to the soldiers and said: ‘here you go, it will save your life.’ The guys took it and said: ‘wow, this is super cool but how do we use it?’ That’s when we realized that we had to teach them how to administer first aid in the battlefield.”
Patriot Defence researched information from the American army materials regarding soldiers’ mortality rate and found that roughly 60% of preventable deaths on the battlefield result from catastrophic blood lost, 30% from tension pneumothorax and 10% from blocked airways.
That is why the first aid kit has equipment and material to treat the three main killers on the battlefield: a Combat Application Tourniquet which can be adjusted easily (a one-handed tourniquet that needs to be placed on the very top of the affected limb), an Israeli-type bandage which is self-compressed to increase to stoppage of blood flow and a Quik Clot Combat Gauze which, as the name indicates, is a quick working agent that will not only stop the bleed but also serve as a gauze. All of these treat catastrophic blood loss and the soldiers have only 3 minutes to stop blood flow before the blood loss is too traumatic and death is inevitable.
The Halo Chest Seals and a needle decompression device can treat a pneumothorax injury (where the lungs deflate from a bullet wound or shock wave) and a nasopharyngeal airway to treat blockage of the airways. The pack also includes a pill pack (for inflammation, pain medication and antibiotics), gloves, trauma scissors and a bag to carry all the items.
Dr. Surpun also adds that the packaging for all of this material can also be used an additional combat gauze and the blue-yellow and red-black flags that are also included can be additionally used as a mini-tourniquet: nothing is wasted from this $100 first aid kit.
Patriot Defence’s Combat Lifesaver course is a short but concise overview of how to treat catastrophic blood loss, airway blockage and pneumothorax and proper methods of evacuating a casualty. Along with these skills, during the course, soldiers are taught to use whatever material they have on hand (for example, one can use the scissors to put additional pressure in the bandage) on the case of emergency on the battlefield. These skills are also tested in a battle simulation in order for the soldiers to gain a first-hand experience of what the battlefield will be like at the front.
Dr. Surpun states that many of the soldiers they have equipped say they have never had this level of training. The training and the first-aid kits do save lives: “There have been hundreds of soldiers who have said that because of the IFAK’s and the training, their lives have been saved. So we say we have our IFAK sotnia (the Ukrainian for hundred – NP).”
The price for the first aid kit is the best that Patriot Defence or anyone else can get since they buy them directly from the manufacturer. Apart from duties and handling fees, most of the travel costs are donated by the agencies themselves.
For anyone wishing to donate, it can be done through the Ukrainian Canadian Congress which will deliver all the funds to Organization for the Defence of Freedoms of Ukraine in New York. Patriot Defence emphasizes that 100% of the money collected goes to the buying of the first-aid kits.
The Surpun’s have spend a large amount of their own money to buy the material for these kits. However, they are also examples of what the Diaspora can do to help Ukraine in this most important of times. While they made the decision to live in Ukraine, what others in the Diaspora could do is simply help them do their jobs and donate something to their cause. For more information, visit or their facebook page. You could also contact your local UCC branch for more information on how you can make an active difference in the war in Ukraine.