5 Stories of Volunteers Helping Ukrainian Medics During the Pandemic
15 April, 2020
Volunteers from Kharkiv distributed protective face masks they had designed themselves to front-line hospitals in the region. Egor Ishtvan

The hospitals in Ukraine are only 70%  equipped to properly treat COVID–19 patients, while only 58% of medical workers have personal protective equipment (PPE). Hromadske spoke to five volunteers helping doctors and medical personnel in the fight against coronavirus.

Egor Ishtvan Sends Broken Ventilators For Repair

Kharkiv resident Egor Ishtvan teaches electronics and computer programming, but has decided to help hospitals that are treating COVID-19 patients – seven hospitals in the city in total. Doctors told Ishtvan that one of their biggest problems are broken artificial ventilators – used in assisted breathing – which need to be diagnosed and repaired.

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“I don’t fix the ventilators myself, because you need to be certified to do it. Even if that would end up a higher quality than the factory itself – it’s a crime. That’s why I send them to Kyiv for diagnostics – because Ukraine has only two services that have this certification, and they’re both in Kyiv,” explained Ishtvan. 

Another problem faced by Kharkiv hospitals is the lack of tracheal tubes and individual filters, needed to hook patients up to the ventilators. Seeing as the repair and parts are expensive, the Kharkiv IT Cluster – a community of IT workers in the city – took it on themselves to organize a charity fund. Ishtvan coordinates the process – he talks to doctors, gathers information about the state of the ventilators, sends them off and cooperates with the fund.

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“At the moment we’re in negotiations with one of the services, in order for them to send a specialist to Kharkiv who will be able to fix about 10 ventilators. That would be both cheaper and faster,” Ishtvan explains.

13 ventilators so far have gone through diagnostics – another 70 are in the pipeline.

Veronika Turska Gave Her Graduation Party Funds to Hospitals

Soon to be graduates from a school in Ternopil, along with their parents, decided to help doctors obtain PPE – by donating some of the funds they’d collected for their graduation party. The students managed to gather 130 respirators and 17 wall-mounted disinfectant dispensers for the infectious disease ward of a local children’s hospital.

“I think that we’ll still have a lot of parties, and I believe that the class has made the right decision. We’ll definitely gather as a class, but maybe it just won’t be the same way we had planned,” said Veronika Turska, an eleventh-grade student.

The students called their actions “From Kids to Kids” and called on other schools to support their initiative.

Andriy Palchyk Knows Everything About Protective Shields

The main components of PPE for medical workers treating COVID-19 patients are specialized outfits, respirators, protective goggles, and gloves. That’s where Andriy Palchik, a Ternopil inventor, comes in. He’s offered to add a ‘second line of defense’ – protective shielded facemasks that completely cover the face. They’re made out of 3D-printed, single-use screens and plastic holders. 

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Palchyk works as a docent of computer technologies at a university, and is a representative of the Ternopil Science Center. Last year, the center was able to obtain funding for a 3D-printer. Palchyk says that it’d be a sin not to use it in the current situation of pandemic.

“At the moment, we’re readying the holders, but there is a single drawback. Just one thing can take about an hour. That’s why, with the help of a brainstorm, we came to the conclusion that we need to think about how to optimize this process, and for a way for people without specialized equipment to take part. We thought up the optimal variant, which is to take a cardboard or plastic cover, for example, from coursework. If a whole team is working on it, then up to 400 of these single-use screens can be prepared,” says Palchik.

He wrote about his idea on social media, and people started to create their own shields. But he also warns people to only help medical workers if their own health is in order, and they don’t have a fever. And volunteers themselves should be wearing the facemasks, along with other PPE, in order to lower the risk for doctors.

Irina Myakotkina Sews Masks for Everyone

One day, Irina Myakotkina was heading to the post office to send a parcel and noticed all the workers in masks. Their masks were made out of technical thread, which is uncomfortable for the workers. After that, Myakotkina decided to sew masks herself, for everyone – medical personnel, taxi drivers, volunteers, and just acquaintances.

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Her next clients, following the postal workers, were volunteers who drive medical workers to work for free. Seeing as these drivers have contact with lots of people, it’s very important to keep them safe. In a single week, Myakotkina sewed and distributed about 200 masks.

“When the local clinic asked me about masks, I did nothing but sew for an entire day, because I understood that they needed this done quick,” recalls Myakotkina.

Her own materials for the masks were quickly used up, which is why she turned to social media with a question: could someone share some fabric with her, for charity? The sum cost of all the materials that go into a single mask are a little under $1, but she gives the majority of masks away for free. Some people donate money to her, or bring her fabric.

Myakotkina admits that it’s hard for her to make masks for everyone by herself, which is why she posted step-by-step instructions for sewing masks in social media, so that everyone could join and start helping others.

Haircuts at Home With Banda

In the second week of the quarantine, Dmytro Adabir, the Development Director at the Banda creative agency posted an Instagram story about how he’d cut the hair of himself and his son with a trimmer. That’s how he got the idea to create an internet flashmob, using the hashtag #HaircutsAtHome, in order to save money on barbershops and beauty salons, and instead donate those funds to help doctors.

Participants in the flashmob can either cut their own hair, or the hair of someone close to them. Pets and children can also take part. Then, they need to take a photo or video of themselves with the hashtag in social media, send the money they would have spent on the haircut to a charity fund, and tag five friends.

The agency started working with charity fund “Patients of Ukraine”. They gather money for PPE for emergency workers, who come into daily contact with patients suspected of having coronavirus. About $185 are needed per day for a single ambulance team, which is why the agency is looking to gather about $37,000. 

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“As it turns out, not everyone is willing to take the risk and easily rid themselves of their hair. But over six days, we were able to gather over $2,500. And we’ll start buying the first round of PPE next week,” Ekateryna Tryhub, a PR rep for Banda, told hromadske.


A post shared by Ярослава Кравченко (@shalmaza) on

Bloggers, politicians, radio hosts, and musicians have all joined the flashmob already. And a Kharkiv barbershop has already promised that after the quarantine, they’ll fix participants a haircut for half the normal price – if their own efforts turned out less than satisfactory.

READ MORE: Ukraine’s 2020 Budget Is Changing Due to the Coronavirus

/By Victoria Sloboda

/Translated by Romeo Kokriatski

For all the latest updates on the coronavirus in Ukraine, follow this link.