Fighting the Good Fight in Ukraine
Aaron Mishler, City Councilman for Elkhart, recently volunteered in Ukraine and shares his experience.
Some of you know me as a City Councilman in Elkhart, or maybe we met through our children at Camp Ideal. Not a lot of folks know that I work as a Registered Nurse, and volunteer for disaster response work nationally and internationally, doing what I like to call “fighting the good fight.” This has taken me from Liberia with Ebola to Haiti, to this past month, where I volunteered to work as a nurse in free clinics throughout Ukraine.
The 18-day trip took us from Krakow, Poland, and a 12-hour train ride to Kyiv. Along the way, you noticed a slow buildup of military equipment outside, sandbag walls, trench works, hedgehog antitank devices, and concrete bunkers adorned with the fluttering blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.
We were a team of three providers (two doctors and a PA) two logistical personnel, another nurse, and translators to assist with the care. The first morning before clinic, we we’re greeted by an air raid siren, and an explosion that shook the hotel as Ukrainian defenses shot down a Russian missile nearby.
We proceeded to our first clinic, treating nearly 60 Ukrainians who hadn’t had access to proper care for months.
With much of the medical infrastructure dedicated to the war effort, primary care fell along the wayside. Patients presented with untreated diabetes, blood pressure in the 200’s and other untreated ailments.
Following two days in Kyiv, we headed south, working in small villages that had taken refugees from the eastern portion of the country. Many of the villages still having large bronze statues of soviet statues in rusted parks, memories of a bygone error.
Here we had our first group of children, a family whose home had been destroyed by a Russian missile strike in Mariupol, and whose middle child was dealing with the trauma by refusing to eat. But through all this trauma and grief, incredible strength kept them going, even here, sleeping on cots in crowded rooms. No one was slouched or demoralized, a babushka cursed the Russians who had taken her granddaughters life, but defiantly insisted that we take two oranges from her.
Even in the recently liberated village of Yevgenovka that spent six months under Russian occupation, where the Russians had stolen everything from appliances to toilet seats and committed unspeakable acts against civilians - their spirit remained unbroken.
In total, our team worked 657 hours, treated 361 patients, came within twenty miles of the front lines, and heard the small arms fire of Ukrainian troops firing at Russian Kamikaze drones in Odessa. Most importantly we made a difference, we made a difference to those 362 patients, to that family who had lost their home, and the grandmother who had lost so much more. We fought the good fight.
Slava Ukrani, Heroiam slava.