AUSTIN (KXAN) — A group in Austin is collecting donated medical supplies at two local restaurants in the hopes that they can save lives in Ukraine.
The group’s membership is Ukrainians living in Austin, and they have a sister group in San Antonio. Nataliya Kovalchuk, a member of the group, says that the group previously collected supplies in 2014 during the annexation of the Crimea by Russia.
“We collected a lot of items back then and a lot of them were delivered actually in suitcases, and it was not organized as much,” Kovalchuk said. “Right now we’re trying to be as organized as we possibly can.”
During the current collection drive, the supplies will go to the San Antonio group, which is partnered with a New Jersey-based nonprofit that coordinates the shipment to western Ukraine. Compared to 2014, the scale of the conflict has increased drastically.
“I’m impressed with the amount of support and help and kindness we’re getting from people that don’t know me personally,” Kovalchuk said. “I want to do my best and make sure these items go to the right hands. It’s definitely not easy. It’s a hard process.”
Some of the supplies requested by the Austin group are common household items: safety pins, tongue depressors, tweezers. But most of the supplies may be unfamiliar to many Americans: hemostatic bandages, disposable scalpels, tourniquets.
Robin Parsons, a veteran of the U.S. Army and Air Force, explains that the medical gear available to an individual soldier is much better than what he had been issued.
“Most of the bleeding comes [from] internal hemorrhage, as the bullet passes through the body. It causes a lot of damage,” Parson said. “You need to stop that bleeding in the short term so you get them to a doctor or an aid station.”
This is where the IFAK, or individual first aid kit, saves lives. Parson explains that the donated kits contain a tourniquet, bandages with clotting agents, adhesive patches to seal lung punctures, powdered clotting agents, medical shears and more. They also have collected larger trauma kits, with additional specialized equipment such as neck braces and IV bags.
“I’m reaching out to my friends who are vets and to Veterans Affairs to get combat medics and Marine Corps corpsman who have recent experience,” Parsons said. “I was not a medic, but my life was saved twice by medics.”
This conflict is personal to Kovalchuk and Parson; it threatens their friends and families.
Kovalchuk says that her husband’s relatives escaped eastern Ukraine, and are currently near the Romanian border. Her side of the family lives in western Ukraine. Parson’s wife is also from Ukraine and her family still lives in the country.
“They were able to get out the very first night when they heard bombings,” Kovalchuk said, “I don’t know if they will have a place to come back to.”
Those interested in donating medical supplies can drop them off at Sharks Burger, located at 12681 Hero Way in Leander, and at The House, located at 307 E 5th St. in Austin. The collection drive ends tomorrow at 7 p.m., but those interested in sending more supplies can do so via the group’s Amazon wishlist. The group plans to do additional collections in the future.
“We need more supplies, and we need them ongoing,” Kovalchuk said. “We don’t know how long that’s going to last. So it’s not [a] one-time event, and we want to do it ongoing for as long as needed.”