Two more Ukrainians receive prosthetics from locally-formed organization
Last December, a nonprofit founded by Vail Valley locals Kelli Rohrig and Tyler Schmidt that helps Ukrainians who have lost limbs as a result of the war with Russia receive prosthetics, brought its first soldier from Ukraine to Colorado to receive aid. Saturday, Limbs for Liberty flew two more Ukrainians to Colorado to benefit from prosthetic limbs.
31-year-old Roman Denysiuk and 49-year-old Igor Voinyi have been sitting in rehab centers in Ukraine for multiple months and would have been waiting in the rehab center for two more months before getting fitted for prosthetics. To help speed up their path to recovery, Limbs for Liberty partnered with Dr. Jeff Retallack, who’s donating his time at Hanger Clinic in Boulder, as well as physical therapists offering free services, including Goat Training and Dogma Athletics, both in Edwards.
Voinyi has been a coal miner all his life, and he has black lung, so on Saturday, a Denver doctor, who also happens to be of Ukrainian descent, prescribed medication to treat the condition. Meanwhile, Denysiuk is suffering from complications in his non-amputated leg, in which Ukrainian doctors placed a rod. It isn’t healing properly, so Limbs for Liberty is working on scheduling an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon.
The two men went to their first appointment at Hanger Clinic on April 24 to get measured for leg prosthetics. This coming week, they’ll return for the second appointment, where doctors will fit cups on their residual legs and remeasure. On the third visit, the men will receive prosthetics.
While they are in Colorado for a month receiving a prosthetic leg and rehabilitating, they are staying in an Arrowhead condo, thanks to an anonymous donor.
Other locals and organizations are stepping up to donate such things as free snowmobile rentals and trips to Fruita and Colorado Springs. On May 11, Rohrig will take the men to Rotary Club of Aspen to talk about Limbs for Liberty, and later in the month, the men will raft with about 20 U.S. veterans through Warriors on Cataract Canyon, who contacted Limbs for Liberty offering to help.
The activities serve a couple of purposes. First, they help take the men’s minds off their plight after being in a hospital, in Denysiuk’s case, for the last nine months. When Rohrig met Voinyi in a Kiev hospital, he shared a room with a captain and a young soldier. She said that the captain helped keep both men’s spirits “intact” and said that the older men helped keep the younger kid alive, assuring him they’ll all make it through the ordeal.
Voinyi arrived in the U.S. very stoic, but snowmobiling last Wednesday, receiving support and hope from doctors and meeting people has boosted his mood, she said.
“He is a completely different person than when he arrived,” she said. “He’s relaxed, he’s smiling, and he’s so interested in getting fit. And Roman’s smile was incredible (Wednesday as they snowmobiled). It just lit the room up.”
The activities also act as a cultural exchange between Americans and Ukrainians.
“It gives them a taste of American culture, but it also ties Americans to war with an understanding that this is what’s happening and this is what happens to our soldiers, as well,” Rohrig said. “One of our goals is a reality check for people on: This is what happens in war, and you have to support all veterans — our veterans, and their veterans.”
As Denysiuk moves closer to receiving his prosthetic limb, he looks forward to “going back to regular life after surgery, back to reality,” without having to face a country under siege sitting in a wheelchair, he said through the translation of Niko Ognevyuk, an EagleVail resident who was born in Ukraine but has lived in the U.S. for 20 years. Before the war, Denysiuk was a university student and construction worker who enjoyed riding bikes and walking in the forest. He talked about how he hasn’t been able to do anything for the last nine months as his amputated leg was healing and how long the waitlist is to receive a prosthetic in Ukraine because so many soldiers, and others, have lost arms and legs due to bombings.
“PT is much better here in the States because they do a lot of activities, so I feel much more support here in the States,” Voinyi said through Ognevyuk’s translation. “In Ukraine, we don’t have so much PT equipment. We don’t have enough resources compared to here in the States.”
Both men said they were “very grateful” and didn’t expect the amount of support they’re receiving from Americans.
“We’re very thankful for the hospitality and the people involved to support us,” Ognevyuk translated for the men. “We feel like regular human beings.”
They’re also quite impressed with Vail’s natural setting, which they call “breathtaking,” particularly the mountains, since they come from a flat landscape.
The first Ukrainian Limbs for Liberty brought to Colorado, Andrey Chersak, is back in Ukraine working on rehabilitation. Though it’s emotionally “tough for him,” Rohrig said, “he’s getting back after it.”
Limbs for Liberty plans to bring two women who have lost limbs to Colorado in July. They have also helped four other Ukrainians receive prosthetics in other states.
The nonprofit continues to raise money through various small fundraisers and has received a few larger donations from individuals. Vail International Gallery has sold sketches that Kiev-born artist Mikhail Turovsky donated to Limbs for Liberty, resulting in much-needed money; Turovsky’s family escaped the Soviet Union and came to the U.S. in 1979. An anonymous West Vail resident also is donating two Not Banksy pieces to benefit Limbs for Liberty.
Upcoming fundraisers include a $15 Kiev Mule Night at Route 6 on May 3 and an all-you-can-eat pierogi night May 11 at Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea Co.
This story is from VailDaily.com.
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