Tell us a little about yourself. What is your background, and where are you from?
I grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida. Both parents were retired teachers. I’m married with two kids. My son in the navy is a fighter jet specialist, and my daughter works as an Environmental Scientist in Colorado. My wife is an Administrator in a local ALF. I studied at the Medical College of Georgia and have practiced primarily in Emergency Medicine and Geriatric care for over 30 years. I’ve been an avid surfer for over 50 years, and I love doing Crossfit and running OCR races.
How did you hear about Global Care Force?
By accident. I had been researching possibilities of going to Ukraine, and a local TV station interview in Arizona dropped on my YouTube site with two volunteers from Global Care Force. I pulled up the web site, and it fit with what I was looking to do.
Why did you want to volunteer with Global Care Force in Ukraine?
They provided everything I was interested in being a part of. Other programs I looked into did not go into the country, and after talking with Roxanne and Scott, I knew it was the perfect fit for me. For me, personally and professionally, this was something I wanted to do since the conflict started. It’s hard to explain, but I knew I had to go.
You volunteered with the March team and asked to stay on after the team finished their clinics. Why? Where else did you serve, and what did you do?
I knew from the start I could not go for just three weeks. I was going to do two back to back trips, but Roxanne mentioned a possibility of doing something totally different that involved an orphanage and displaced refugee care in another part of the country with “Save Ukraine”. They didn’t have much information on what to expect, but I would have a place to stay, a translator, medications and transportation. That was good enough for me.
I initially stayed in “Stryi” for 12 days. I saw around 20 patients and made a few house calls. My office was the kitchen. My translator Vlad, a displaced 21-year-old from Dnipro, worked with me, and along with the other employees who worked downstairs, I was well taken care of!
Of note, all the young adults who worked downstairs were also displaced from the East part of the country and employed by Save Ukraine. Igor from Ukraine Orphanage Outreach picked me up for the next part of my volunteer service. I had a place in Truskavets, which is a beautiful part of the country. They took very good care of me for the next two weeks, where along with the youth groups from the church, I was able to visit several orphanages in the surrounding area to provide some medical care but primarily dietary care for the many displaced children. I visited several refugee centers where “Save Ukraine” had set-up housing for several families who had lost their homes due to the war. My translator Anna was excellent, and the youth groups I traveled with were an amazing group of young adults. I can’t say enough about what the church and Ukraine Orphanage Outreach are doing for these kids!
Tell us about the Ukrainian people and the patients you saw. What impression did they leave on you? Are there stories you can share, whether a patient or staff that impacted you?
At the clinic, we met so many people who were deeply appreciative that we had come so far to see them. I can’t count the times I was asked why we weren’t afraid of getting killed or injured. They were more concerned about us, which tells you a lot about the Ukranians. Medical issues were similar to what I treat back home, but some of the crazy blood pressure issues I encountered were impressive.
One encounter that stuck with me was an older couple who came to see us. Both had blood pressure and diabetic issues and had not seen a doctor or been on medications since the Russians invaded. The couple showed no emotion during the 30 minute consultation, and had a very flat expression, which I could understand after everything they had been through. When we finished, I told them they would receive a month’s worth of medications for free and Global Care Force volunteers would see them next month for follow-up. I could see the husband was a bit surprised and confused. He said something to his wife and then asked again if we were giving them medications to take with them? My translator Andre explained to them that yes, they would get enough for a month. The husband stood up, began shaking my hand like crazy, and then kissed me and Andre about 3-4 times, and his wife did the same. They were so happy and promised to wait for us to return next month. It made my day and is a high point in my career that I will always remember.
Many locations where the mobile medical teams traveled were significantly impacted by the war. What did you see, and what stories did Ukrainians tell you about what they have been through?
At first it was a bit surreal to see the amount of destruction in just one small part of the country. It brings into perspective on why you came. You soon realize how lucky you have it, and what you get stressed about at home is so miniscule. So many people I came into contact really just wanted to tell you what they had seen and been through so we could tell others. I had an encounter with an older man in the last village we visited who approached me outside of the clinic. He wanted to tell me the story of what had happened when the Russians had taken the town. He had heard there were Americans here, so he came down to talk to one of us. Andre, my translator, was with me and over the next 20 minutes, he told me the story of what had occurred. I initially thought about posting this on my Facebook blog but decided not to. It was too disturbing, and posting it would discredit the encounter.
Although you volunteered in a country at war, and the situation is very disheartening, photos show moments of camaraderie and joy. It appears your team enjoyed serving together.
LOL, yes. We had a really great group and enjoyed each other’s company. Eating together was always fun, considering we traveled with a couple of Ukrainian foodies (Sergei and Lev), who knew where to go for the best food in places you would never expect to find. Roxanne Jones is truly amazing! She took care of everyone and kept everything moving forward. I hope she gets to meet President Zelensky. The work she is accomplishing is amazing.
If someone is considering volunteering with Global Care Force, what would you tell them?
I highly recommend it to anyone, not just medical, but anyone who wants to help in a country that really needs the assistance. The volunteer experience in Ukraine with Global Care Force was the highpoint of my medical career, and personally I will never forget it. I want to return as soon as possible, but I have bills to pay. Lol!
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