For the first time since the beginning of the war, the Chair of the Board of the Shepherd’s Foundation, Dr. Marty Wade, was able to visit Ukraine. The visit happened under increasing risks of rocket and drone attacks as Russia continued to hit energy infrastructure across the country.
First and foremost, Dr. Wade came to demonstrate support and encouragement to the team in Ukraine passing greetings and love on from the many American friends and partners in ministry. For many longtime friends in Cherkasy oblast and across Ukraine, this visit was a major surprise. “Isn’t he afraid to come to Ukraine at this time?” they asked. Numerous families were moved by the gesture and through their tears, shared war stories and experiences. Marty’s physical presence made it personal, emotional, and meaningful for all of us.
Another reason for Marty’s visit was to accompany and introduce our new ministry partners, Greg Ekbom and Matthew Coley, the leaders of LimbFit organization. LimbFit was founded three years ago after Greg Ekbom’s son lost two of his legs. Greg has a burning desire to help the amputees in war-torn countries. After the war in Ukraine started, they decided to partner with the Shepherd’s Foundation to try to help civilians and military personnel in Ukraine receive high quality prosthetics. They wanted to research the general need in the country, learn about the situation with prosthetics, and the availability of quality prostheses and specialists for prosthetics and rehabilitation. We had the opportunity to visit specialized hospitals which treat both military and civilians in Lviv, Kyiv, Cherkasy, and Zolotonosha. We visited state-owned prosthetics centers and the best private prosthetics laboratories. We visited the office/warehouse of the Christian Medical Association in Lviv.
We spent several hours with the deputies of the Minister of Health of Ukraine, probably the most important and encouraging meeting of the visit. As we shared about LimbFit, prosthetics solutions, the Shepherd’s Foundation medical missions and Camp Maximum programs for people with disabilities and PTSD and trauma programming, we received their full support and interest. Even though the focus has temporarily shifted from Kyiv to Lviv (a safer location for the patients), the Ministry of Health would like to see prosthetic labs and rehabilitation centers developed in other parts of the country, especially in central Ukraine. Multiple times the deputies assured us that full support will be provided if we launch a prosthetics center and train prosthetics specialists in Ukraine.
From our discussions in the hospitals, we learned that many patients are unable to travel across the country to get high quality prosthetic service. They often don’t have enough funds to afford a high-quality device. As a result, many patients “give up” and wear uncomfortable prostheses and/or end up living a sedentary lifestyle in a wheelchair or on crutches. The need is great and while sending people abroad is a viable short-term solution, Ukraine needs to develop a long term, high quality, and financially sustainable domestic solution.
The meeting concluded with a solid vision to open a LimbFit center for prosthetics and rehabilitation in central Ukraine at Camp Maximum. With Shepherd’s Foundation, CMA and LimbFit. we have the perfect partnership to help amputees in Ukraine receive new limbs and a new perspective on life.
In the next several months. all parties will be working together to open a high-quality prosthetics center at Camp Maximum. With God’s help we are hoping to be ready by late spring or early summer of 2023.
The LimbFit Prosthetics Center will be a non-commercial project aiming to help Ukrainian amputees with high-quality prostheses and rehabilitation programs. Currently, there are an estimated 5,000 soldiers waiting for prosthetics and the number is climbing daily. Also, annually there are an estimated 3,500 civilians requiring prosthetics as a result of medical conditions such as diabetes, etc. All the existing centers in Ukraine can serve less than 2,000 patients per year. In many cases, new prosthetics are required every 2 years. By building a center at Camp Maximum and working with LimbFit, we may be able to do 200 per year. While this certainly doesn’t fulfill the entire need, this will make a big dent in that need! Until our Ukrainian center is ready, patients from Ukraine will be served by the LimbFit partner center in Turkey.
The next visit to Ukraine is planned for March 2023. Until then, numerous things must fall into place, so please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.