When Dr. Paul Fedak watched alongside the world on social media as fellow cardiac surgeon Dr. Igor Mokryk treated patients in a Kyiv, Ukraine bomb shelter, he knew he had to do something to help.
In several days, that help will be travelling from Canada to the embattled nation.
Dr. Fedak, who is the Director of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute, has worked alongside Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary to collect vital supplies to ship to Ukraine to help provide critical care to those affected by the war.
“I can’t even imagine what it’d be like trying to care for these patients during a war,” he said.
“[Dr. Igor Mokryk] told me he was OK, and they were doing the best they could. I asked him if there was something we could do to help, and he said supplies. We really need medical supplies.”
Alberta Health Services’ Executive Director of Cardiac Sciences, Amanda Weiss, and UCalgary were able to get nurses, administrators, staff, and even medical students involved in finding materials that were in storage that could be sent to Ukraine.
“You can imagine all the different cardiovascular units we have here in the system,” Weiss said.
“Everybody scoured the hallways and the cupboards and tried to find anything that is not going to be used or could be given up without impacting patient care, and this is what we are able to come up with.”
Donated supplies don’t diminish patient care in Alberta
The supplies, said Dr. Fedak, are largely made up of disposable items and won’t have an effect on patient care in Alberta. It will make a dramatic impact on patient care in Ukraine. The supplies match those used in older style equipment no-longer in use by AHS, but are still being used in Ukraine.
“It’s a really nice when where these things would probably be discarded or thrown in the garbage, and now they’re going to probably save lives,” Fedak said.
“We totally recognize that right now there are critical shortages, even in Alberta or Canada for health care, but all of these things are things that we’re not going to be used and they were likely going to be disposed of, for various reasons.
“So this will not affect anybody in Calgary or Alberta with respect to their care, and so it’s really a win-win.”
Among the items being sent are syringes, needles, tubes and catheters, surgical gowns and PPE. Even pads for defibrillators.
“They provided us a big list of things that they need, and a lot of what we’re providing are things that were on their list,” Dr. Fedak said.
“All they need to do is open the boxes, and right away, they’re going to be able to use the materials.”
Inspiring others to help
The 30-some boxes of supplies will be shipped through Poland and then to the Heart Institute in Kyiv.
“I can only imagine as the war continues to escalate that supply chain issues will become more and more of an issue, and it’ll probably affect them for a long, long time,” said Dr. Fedak.
He said that this shipment will not be a one off. They will turn to other departments within the medical system to see what supplies they have that can go to better use.
In the meantime, Dr. Fedak, said that the creativity of the doctors in Ukraine overcoming supply challenges has inspired doctors like him in Canada to act.
“I can’t imagine trying to provide the intensive care you need for open heart surgery to make it safe without the right kinds of equipment,” he said.
“Even something as simple as a gallon of sterile gown, if you run out of those what are you going to do.
“And the people that are very creative, they found all kinds of ways to try to get things done. That’s part of what inspires me and others to try to support them, because they’re doing everything they can and these resources will really help.”
As for everyday Calgarians, he hopes that this will spark other groups, organizations, and professions to see how they can help the citizens of Ukraine.
“I hope it will inspire others to do the same thing to look—look in your household, look in your business, look in your network, in your neighbourhood,” Dr. Fedak said.
“Are there ways that you can help find creative ways to try to help at an individual or group level beyond what we’re doing at the national level.”