Europe
4:05 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

For Ukrainian Patient, Care Comes From Quiet Philly Suburb

Originally published on Mon April 21, 2014 7:26 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The violent clashes in Ukraine between protesters and military police have overwhelmed hospitals there and some of the patients who need intensive treatment are arriving in the U.S. WHYY's Emma Jacobs reports on an international effort to treat Ukrainian patients. It's organized out of a Philadelphia suburb.

EMMA JACOBS, BYLINE: Before the protests in Kiev, Roman Dzivinskyi was a 21-year-old who was struggling to find work and had even briefly left his country to secure a job in Siberia. When he heard about throngs of protesters, of government corruption gathering in Kiev, he caught a bus to join them.

ROMAN DZIVINSKYI: (Through translator) When the bus was about 15 to 20 minutes away from the village, I called my mother and told her that I was on my way to Kiev. I did not want anybody to stop me.

JACOBS: He stayed on for weeks. The day he was hurt, he says he was unloading supplies at the protesters' makeshift headquarters when someone handed him a box that looked like it contained cigarettes.

DZIVINSKYI: (Through translator) I remember opening the box, but don't remember when the box exploded. Opening my eyes, I saw a lot of smoke and seeing a lot of people running around.

JACOBS: He came to missing one of his hands and so in shock, he says, all he could think about was wanting a smoke. It's not clear what pro- or anti-government faction planted the bomb. This was February 6th, weeks before the rest of the world saw pictures of the rings of fire circling Maidan Square. But Zenia Chernyk had already been following the news closely. She's a Pennsylvania doctor who was born in Ukraine. With the Ukrainian Federation of America, she's helped many protesters leave Ukraine for treatment.

ZENIA CHERNYK: If you are American-Ukrainian, you feel obligation to help your countrymen, but if you are a physician, then you know that that's your duty to do that because that's what you went into this profession for, to help people.

JACOBS: Dzivinskyi was the first of these patients she met in person. A few weeks ago, she escorted him to the suburban office of a specialist outside Philadelphia. In the waiting room, she explained Dzivinskyi's a good candidate for a prosthesis he can control from the nerves in his arm.

CHERNYK: Because he's so young, we really are trying to bring him back to as functional level as possible so he can work and, you know, lead relatively functional life.

JACOBS: Working with other members of the Ukrainian diaspora, Chernyk is moving patients to hospitals in Europe, Israel and the United States that are treating them pro bono. For travel expenses and things like Dzivinskyi's expensive artificial hand, she's raising money from other Ukrainians. He'll spend several more months in the U.S. getting fitted for it and having physical therapy.

He says that even after the bomb blast, he doesn't regret having boarded the bus for Kiev, but he's disappointed with how the standoff in his country has escalated.

DZIVINSKYI: (Through translator) We did not want war in Ukraine or Ukrainian people to fight amongst each other. We wanted Ukraine and its people to be united as one, to fight for the same cause, not to get divided into western parts, Crimean parts.

JACOBS: Two weeks later, after surgery, the cast and his remaining damaged hand had just been removed. He showed Chernyk how we can now lift a paper cup, even though he's missing a thumb.

DZIVINSKYI: (Foreign language spoken)

CHERNYK: He's making a comment that now he can hold the cup of coffee and enjoy a cup of coffee, which he was not able to do.

DZIVINSKYI: (Foreign language spoken)

JACOBS: But for each success, Chernyk says she has a spreadsheet with information on more than 60 additional people needing treatment. She wants to get them out of Ukraine quickly to be ready for more patients if fighting escalates. For NPR News, I'm Emma Jacobs in Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.