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Cranbrook doctor fundraising for Ukrainian medical equipment, training

Dr. Tracey Parnell has been to Ukraine numerous times to volunteer her medical expertise in conflict zones
Dr. Tracey Parnell delivered a presentation at the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook, talking about her experiences volunteering with other medical professionals in Ukraine. Trevor Crawley photo.

A Cranbrook doctor is continuing to fundraise for medical equipment as she prepares to embark on a trip to Ukraine to volunteer her medical expertise as the Russian military’s invasion of the country continues.

Dr. Tracey Parnell, a local doctor trained in Emergency Medicine and Disaster Management, recently held a presentation at the Studio Stage Door, where she shared her experiences gleaned over five previous stints in Ukraine with fellow volunteers and NGOs.

The presentation also highlighted the challenges and needs faced by Ukraine medical professionals to treat military personnel and civilians injured by weapons of war.

The types of wounds she is seeing, particularly shrapnel from artillery and drone bombings, are horrific, while in places like Bakhmut — a city she’s been to three times — there can be up to 200 major trauma patients every 24 hours.

“I’ve seen war crimes,” Parnell said. “I’ve witnessed people who have been under oppression who are now free, and what that’s done to them. I’ve also seen the Ukrainian spirit continue to fight under astronomical odds and they continue to innovate and they continue to try hard.”

She said her last trip to the country was cut short early because she had a likely chemical exposure in a patient that impacted her team.

She also shared direct and indirect experiences of working in trauma care settings that were severely under-resourced, whether in places like hospitals with major infrastructure deficits or in the mechanics bay of an auto shop during a battle.

“The thing that hasn’t changed is the number of dead and dying and the horrific wounds, and that doesn’t get any easier, ever,” she said.

The fundraising campaign also includes purchasing equipment such as tourniquets, chest seals and specialized bandages. Parnell is raising money to purchase those items, as some equipment donated with good intentions may not be up to industry quality and be potentially responsible for patient fatalities if a knock-off product fails.

Beyond equipment, Parnell is also hoping to get involved in setting up an International Trauma Life Support chapter to help train and equip Ukrainian medical professionals who then go on to train others.

“As we’re going more and more, we’re starting to identify what is needed to give these medical professionals the tools they need and training certified, quality training, provides standardized tools, certified courses that are used globally, but they come at a cost,” Parnell said.

“We have to have equipment, instructors. But that would be a game changer. These people are thirsty, hungry for any training they can get, and this offers them a very high level and adaptable level … We can use this for basic medics all the way up to traumatologists and emerg docs, so it’s a very flexible team-based approach.”

Additional specialized equipment needs includes life-like mannequins that have custom-made wounds for training procedures involving amputations, chest wounds and large and soft tissue injuries. Other items include virtual care tools, such as a portable point-of-care lab device and a kit of tele-health tools.

Though Parnell doesn’t have a registered charity set up for tax receipts, donations can be made online through a GoFundMe page MedicTeam4Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine has been raging since February 2022, when the Russian military invaded the country under the auspices of training exercises.

The conflict has displaced over six million Ukrainians, who have fled to other parts of Europe as well as overseas to North America and even the East Kootenay, where the Shelter for Ukrainians Society has been assisting with relocation efforts.

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.
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