Skip to content

Cranbrook doctor raising money for medical equipment on Ukrainian front lines

A Cranbrook doctor who has been volunteering with a mobile hospital unit in Ukraine is raising money for medical equipment ahead of a pending return trip to the country.
Medical responders at work in a mechanics shop during a battle. Photo courtesy Tracey Parnell. Medical responders at work in a mechanics shop during a battle. Photo courtesy Tracey Parnell.

A Cranbrook doctor who has been volunteering with a mobile hospital unit in Ukraine is raising money for medical equipment ahead of a pending return trip to the country.

Dr. Tracey Parnell is putting out the call for financial support that will be used to purchase and ship medical equipment to Ukraine.

She has twice been to the country following the Russian military invasion at the end of February — which sparked Europe’s most deadly conflict since the Second World War — and will be returning to the country near the end of October.

With specialization in emergency medicine and risk, crisis and disaster management, along with a military background as a reserve medical officer, Dr. Parnell said she wanted to volunteer after hearing what was happening from a friend who lived in Lviv.

Her last two sojourns into Ukraine had stops in Lviv, Kyiv, and eventually, to the war’s eastern front line, spending the majority of her time with the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital — a volunteer organization of physicians who provide care and evacuation for the wounded.

“In my time there, it became very evident that the medical staff were incredibly passionate and dedicated, but they lacked the equipment that we would consider just standard equipment here,” Dr. Parnell said.

“I can’t emphasize enough that the medical staff are doing so much with so little. They’re innovative, they have an incredible desire to learn and make sure they’re doing their best, but they just don’t have the equipment that we take for granted in any small community [here].

“To me, that’s not acceptable.”

The scale of destruction on the Ukrainian front line is unfathomable, she said.

“There’s trenches, there’s shelling, there’s loss of limbs like I’ve never seen,” Dr. Parnell said. “The ones who are going to die are going to die, but there’s a whole pile of people who don’t have to die and those are the ones we want to focus on making sure they get what they need to do the job.

“And the training to use the equipment — there’s no point just sending stuff over without supporting them with the training and the support they need as well.”

Working conditions for those volunteering with the mobile hospital are intense, as Ukrainian civilians bear the brunt of Russian shelling.

Rocket artillery leaves craters large enough for a school bus to fit inside.

Volunteers with the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital set up and work where they can, sometimes in places like an old mechanics shop. The hole in the mechanic bay for tinkering underneath vehicles is used as a makeshift bunker during shelling.

Stacks of wooden pallets are used as makeshift beds for patients who need treatment and care.

Dr. Parnell said the volunteer hospital may see upwards of 180 trauma patients daily. By contrast, some large trauma registries in the United States may see 200 patients in an entire year, she added.

She is hoping raise enough financial support to purchase as much of the necessary specialized medical equipment as possible. That includes 1,000 CAT tourniquets, 2,000 chest seals, specialized pressure bandages, ready heat blankets and special heated fluid (IV nad blood) pumps, stretchers and scoop stretchers.

While a stretcher might seem like a basic piece of medical equipment, Dr. Parnell says the ones being used over in Ukraine are made of canvas and typically covered in the blood of patients.

The chest seals are live-saving pieces of equipment used for closing open chest wounds, which are disturbingly frequent given the amount of artillery shelling.

All told, the total cost for what’s needed is estimated at $150,000.

Dr. Parnell has set up an account with CTOMS — a tactical medicine training company based in Edmonton — that is dedicated to acquiring the specialized equipment sought by medical responders and doctors in Ukraine.

While well-intentioned people may wish to directly donate equipment, it may inadvertently not be the correct type or the quality may not be good enough, which is why the account was set up directly with the supplier, said Dr. Parnell.

Anyone interested in donating towards the medical equipment can contact CTOMS at 780-469-6106 and reference Sales Order Number SO177110 for Dr. Parnell.

Anyone with questions can reach out to Dr. Parnell via email at

Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital was first formed in 2013 in response to a protest movement that formed after Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych did not sign an agreement with the European Union, instead favouring closer ties to Russia.

Organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and Red Cross have been operating in Ukraine; however, not up near the front lines where the fighting is, according to Dr. Parnell.

“This is a very specific project that’s aimed at stopping people from dying who don’t have to die,” Dr. Parnell said. “And if it’s your kids or your loved one who was there, you don’t want to find out that they bled to death when they didn’t have to, that their lungs collapsed when they didn’t have to

“Just simple, simple things and this is what this project is aimed at.”

The Russian military invaded Ukraine in late February through illegal pretenses under the guise of a ‘special military operation’.

According to a September press briefing from Matilda Bogner, the head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, 14,059 civilian casualties has been corroborated by the agency, however, actual numbers are likely considerably higher.

Since the invasion, more than 7.2 million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded across Europe, while 4.2 million are registered for temporary protection in European countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
Read more