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Ukrainian woman fundraises for medical supplies in Tampa Bay

Olha Smith lives in Palm Harbor, but her family still lives in Ukraine. She's spent weeks gathering essential medical supplies for doctors in her home country.

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — As the Russian invasion into Ukraine nears the one-month mark, doctors are struggling to get their hands on necessary medical supplies to treat patients. 

Some of the items needed? Tourniquets to stop bleeding, hemorrhagic powder to help blood clot in larger wounds, and walkie-talkies for medical professionals to communicate with each other in case power is lost. 

“Those [are] things that are almost impossible to buy in Ukraine or even in the nearby European countries," Dr. Ihor Hrytsiuk said. Hrystiuk is a pediatric endocrinologist at Western Ukrainian Specialized Children's Medical Center in Lviv, Ukraine. 

When the need for these supplies became apparent, Hrytsiuk reached out to his medical colleagues across the globe for help. 

"There is really a deficit in these things right now," Hrytsiuk said. "People are trying to make their own tourniquets, but they do not work very well... The fact is that it doesn’t work well. A lot of people die.“

Olha Smith answered Hrytsiuk's call for help without any hesitation. Smith grew up in Lviv with several family members still living there now. 

“It’s painful," Smith said when thinking about all the Ukrainian people enduring. "My heart is breaking for people. That’s why I try to do anything I can. I feel like if every single person would do just a little bit we could change what’s happening."

Smith decided to do more than a "little bit." She purchased tourniquets with her own money to send to Hrytsiuk's hospital.

"Do you know probably one of the leading causes of death at a time of war is bleeding? And she’s collecting things that can save lives against stopping bleeding that gives a chance for wounded people to survive," Hrytsiuk said. "This isn’t only military people also civil population.”

Then, as friends in America asked Smith how they could help in her efforts, she began doing even more to help. 

“As the war progresses there are more needs," said Smith. “Then, [Hrytsiuk] asked if we can expand a little bit. There is a hemorrhagic powder that can be placed on a wound to stop bleeding as well. And he asked if I could do that, so I found a way to purchase that powder as well and it will be here next week and we will be shipping that out.“

Last week, Smith sent 127 combat application tourniquets, 16 hemostatics, 12 boxes of glucose test strips, and 15 handwritten notes from school students.

Smith created an online fundraising page to collect donations. More than $3,000 has been raised online so far.

“Lviv became a hub for refugees for humanitarian help," she said. "That’s the place where everything comes and it’s spread through all over Ukraine for wherever it’s needed."

Her next shipment will include LifeStraw filters. These serve individual water filters. 

“So they found a lot of people in bunkers that are stuck there for days did not have access to freshwater," Smith said. "They started to melt snow and drink out of puddles."

Now, with Smith's donation, people hunkered down in bunkers for hours and days on end will be able to consume clean, filtered water. Sometimes, some of those people in bunkers are pediatric cancer patients. 

“In the middle of the night, the sick children with oncological diseases, with cancers, have to go into the shelters in the basement of the hospital,” Hrytsiuk said. 

Both Smith and Hrytsiuk gave an outpouring of appreciation to all who have donated and the show of support they've seen across the world from those standing with Ukraine. 

“The people of the world are standing behind them, it gives them strength," said Smith. "It gives them hope. A lot of people, because of that, they are staying in their country and they will fight and they will not give up.“

If you're interested in reading more about Smith's fundraising efforts, click here. Updates to shipments are posted on the fundraising page as well.


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