Sending Medical Kits to the Front Lines
Last month, Maria Geba, a first-year infectious diseases fellow in the School of Medicine, and her partner, emergency room nurse and paramedic Joseph Shelton, traveled to Eastern Europe to deliver individual trauma kits to rescuers serving on the front lines in Ukraine.
The project got underway when the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America reached out to Geba, who is Ukrainian-American. “We still have family in western Ukraine, so this war has certainly affected us personally, and I think from the very beginning, we as a family had always been searching for ways to help,” she said.
Geba and Shelton’s skill set was perfect, pairing their medical expertise with Shelton’s experience having founded Mideast Rescue, which supports local rescuers on the ground in that region of the world.
They got to work making the kits, which contained things like tourniquets, chest seals, pressure bandages, trauma shears and wound-packing gauze.
They left for Warsaw, Poland, on March 10 with about 250 medical kits packed into several suitcases. Once they got their bearings, the pair headed to the Polish city of Przemysl, which is about 20 minutes from Ukraine’s western border.
From there, Shelton made his way into Ukraine, meeting his contact in the city of Lviv. He said crossing into the rattled country was eerie.
“The air quality was so bad,” he said. “In the eastern part of their country, there’s massive fires. Oil depots are being bombed. All kinds of buildings are being destroyed,” he said. “I imagine that smoky atmosphere over the western part of the country was actually from fires on the eastern side.”
With many women and children having fled the country since Russia’s incursion Feb. 24, “It was really wild to see the streets just essentially filled with young men,” Shelton said. “Right now, they’re obviously not allowing military-aged men to leave. I don’t think they’re being forced to fight, but they’re not allowed to leave the country.”
Shelton’s goal was to deliver the kits to people who are trained to know how to use them. “These kits are given to people who can train others on the ground,” Geba said. “Not everyone knows how to use a tourniquet, so we thought that was really important.”