Utah man in Ukraine helps set up ambulance service in war-torn areas
A Utah man is helping an organization establish a much-needed service in the hardest hit areas of Ukraine, keeping civilians and soldiers connected to medical care.
Jim Hickman left home in Salt Lake City and headed to Poland after the war broke out, spending two weeks on the border then diving deep inside the war-torn country.
He’s focused on setting up an ambulance service as a volunteer program coordinator for the small, New Mexico-based NGO Global Outreach Doctors.
“Ukrainians don’t have a paramedic service anything like we have in America,” Hickman explained. “And so, we’ve been identifying areas in Ukraine where they can be of use, trying to hire staff. For now, we’ve been using British and American paramedics.”
Global Outreach Doctors, which Hickman said supplies medical-focused humanitarian aid to countries experiencing disaster, acquired eleven ambulances from the UK and Khaled El Mayet.
According to the organization, a Global Outreach Doctors medical team is working in southern Ukraine near Mariupol at a trauma stabilization point for the severely wounded, working with around 40 patients a day.
The organization said it is also providing healthcare near Kyiv, with a second Global Outreach Doctors medic team.
Hickman is part of the Kyiv team, and described how he coordinates where ambulances need to go to reach people who need medical care.
Much of the time, that means heading into what Hickman called the “green zone,” near the front lines, he said, “where we collect both civilian and military patients and take them to the hospitals.”
In addition to medical evacuations from near the front lines, Hickman indicated that the paramedics and ambulances conduct medical evaluations by visiting communities completely cut off from medical care because of the bombings.
“We are doing assessments. We are asking people, ‘Hey, do you need your medications refilled?’” He explained. “Some of the outlying areas, doctors have not returned, pharmacies are not open.”
He said someone may be out of blood pressure medication, or thyroid medicine, or they may have a minor infection that needs to be treated with no other way to get it taken care of.
Part of Hickman’s work takes him to many different areas around Kyiv. He’s seen bridges annihilated, and buildings left in shambles.
Yet, the people of Ukraine forge forward.
“It’s kind of surreal,” he said. “There’s destruction, but life is still going on.”
He tours hospitals and medical facilities to assess the destruction, meet with hospital officials, and find out what they need.
Global Outreach Doctors said it has $300,000 in financial aid to deliver to select Ukrainian hospitals, thanks to a “generous grantor.”
Hickman gets to deliver those grants and establish relationships with area hospitals.
One of the places he visited that Hickman will never forget, is a children’s hospital in Chernihiv.
He took photos of the windows completely covered inside, and sandbags stacked up in the windowsills. One of his videos shows a dark, damp basement with little light.
In the video, a translator tells Hickman that the hospital official is explaining how the children lived in the basement, sleeping and eating while being cared for by doctors and nurses who didn’t leave their sides for more than a month.
“The children were taken down to the basement, and that’s where they stayed for 38 days while they were under siege,” he said. No staff left during those 38 days, he was told, and the hospital lost no children.
The basement walls are covered with bright drawings and pictures the kids created during that time.
Another video from Hickman shows drawings of Ukrainian flags, flowers, hearts, animals, and Santa Claus.
One picture is of a Ukrainian flag surrounded by hearts, with the word “LOVE” written in crayon underneath. Another is a giant heart in Ukrainian colors—bright blue on top, and yellow on the bottom.
For Jim, it’s an inspiring symbol of the spirit and resilience of the Ukrainian people.
“Even if I’m having a bad day or I’m tired as we all get, you’ll meet someone and it’s like, my goodness why don’t you want to help these people, you know?” he said. “It just spurs you to continue working.”
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