Amplitude‘s first post about the Russian invasion of Ukraine appeared on March 2 of last year, barely a week after Putin’s tanks rolled across the border. In those early days of the attack, we mused about the potential harm to the titanium supply chain and to Ukrainian bioengineering startups. It wasn’t until a couple of months later that we turned our attention to the thousands of Ukrainians who were losing limbs in the fighting, and the US limb-loss community’s mobilization to help those wartime amputees.
That’s where our focus has remained ever since. The number of Ukrainians (both soldiers and civilians) who’ve lost limbs to Russian weapons since last year is now estimated to fall in the range of 10,000. They’re added to the thousands of earlier combat amputees who lost limbs in the nine-year-old fight against Russian-backed rebels in the Donbas region. Over the last 12 months, the armies have pushed each other forwards and backwards, but the need for prosthetic care and rehabilitation only moves in one direction: It gets bigger every day.
So, too, does the American effort to meet that growing demand. Amplitude routinely gets inquiries from people who want to know how they can help, and we’ve written about some of the war-relief projects to help Ukrainian amputees. But there are many we haven’t gotten to. As the invasion hits the one-year mark, we decided to make note of as many of these initiatives as we can—and to encourage everyone to support these efforts as much as possible.
The first mobilization we became aware of involved Limbs for Life and Penta Prosthetics, two aid organizations that send used prosthetic limbs and components all over the world. That partnership’s first shipment to Ukraine lifted off last August, as we narrated here. It took a lot of planning and logistical effort to get the pipeline established, but the two organizations have kept it flowing ever since. Together they’ve sent prosthetic parts and components to four clinics in three cities, according to Penta’s Anna Szczepanek, with the total number of items shipped surpassing 500. “We continue to speak with individuals, clinics, and other organizations in order to assess their needs and offer resources,” adds Limbs for Life’s Shelley Dutton. “Donations of new and used prosthetic parts and limbs are our greatest need. Prosthetic components that are no longer being used such as feet, knees, and hardware are incredibly important to our efforts.” If you have any such items to donate, visit the Limbs for Life’s donation page or Penta’s donation page.
Another early mobilizer was Yakov Gradinar, a Ukrainian-American prosthetist who works at a Minneapolis-area clinic. Early last summer, he and a fellow Ukrainian immigrant (Yury Aroshidze) began raising funds through Aroshidze’s nonprofit, the Protez Foundation, to transport amputees to the Twin Cities, where they receive prosthetic limbs, aftercare, rehab, and mental health support. Gradinar told the Kyiv Post recently that he originally considered traveling to Ukraine to offer prosthetic care there. “We decided to do it here [in Minneapolis] for a few reasons,” he continued. “First, we can get good quality prosthetics, access to clinical people here in the United States, good components. Second, we can get the patients three or four weeks of vacation from Ukraine. And third, we’re getting the public outside Ukraine to see that behind those bombed buildings, there are real people who are injured.” The beneficiaries range from soldiers wounded in combat to innocent civilians, including children. As of last fall, more than 400 Ukrainians had applied to the Protez project for aid. To make a donation or volunteer your time, visit the Protez website or Facebook page.
Another Minnesota-based initiative, Courage Ukraine, grew out of Peter Nordquist’s humanitarian mission to Ukraine last spring. During his seven-week tour of the country, Nordquist learned firsthand of the acute need for prosthetic care. Upon returning to the United States, he teamed up with an associate from Fargo (Monte Schumacher) to launch a campaign focused on support for amputees. Courage Ukraine is mitigating the harms of limb loss in two ways: by paying for prosthetic limbs and care (delivered at Ukrainian clinics), and by funding efforts to clear land mines, which are a major cause of limb loss (especially for civilians and children). As a measure of this group’s effectiveness, the Russian government recently banned one of Courage Ukraine’s fundraising videos. You can make a donation at Courage Ukraine’s website; for updates on the project, visit their Facebook page.
Last fall prosthetist Mike Corcoran and former Marine Bill Endicott launched Operation Renew Prosthetics to provide prosthetic limbs, aftercare, rehab, and other support for critically injured Ukrainian soldiers. Corcoran, who runs Maryland-based Medical Center Orthotics and Prosthetics, accumulated vast experience caring for combat amputees in the aftermath of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The long-term objective, Endicott writes at the ORP blog, is to develop a state-of-the-art prosthetics center in Ukraine “not only care for amputees, but also to train Ukrainian prosthetists and technicians in the most advanced techniques and to ensure that they have the most advanced materials to work with.” ORP is currently partnering with the Brother’s Brother Foundation for funding. Support the cause at the program website.
A similar effort is underway out on Long Island at Progressive Orthotics and Prosthetics, which is treating amputees flown over from Ukraine by a nonprofit known as Kind Deeds. The organization has placed five Ukrainians in prosthetics to date, with four more in treatment and more than 200 on the organization’s waiting list. Occupational therapist Dmytro Shevchenko, a member of Kind Deeds’ medical leadership team, told CBS News: “There were a lot of amputees [in Ukraine] that cannot get prosthetics, so we found prosthetists here in New York. We’re giving them their life back, their ability to walk and run. You can donate at Kind Deeds’ website.
One of the more fascinating efforts we’ve learned about, Limbs for Liberty, began as a one-woman crusade mere weeks into the invasion. It was launched by a Colorado landscaping professional named Kelli Rohrig, who headed to southeastern Poland back in April 2022 to assist Ukrainian refugees as they fled across the border. Like so many others who’ve spent time in or near Ukraine, she perceived the acute need for amputee care and decided to focus her efforts on meeting that demand. Rohrig has been shipping prosthetic technology and other medical supplies to her contacts in Ukraine, and last month her organization was able to fly an amputee soldier to Colorado to receive a carbon-fiber leg at a clinic there. Get updates at the group’s Facebook page, or make a donation at Limbs for Liberty’s website.
Unlimited Tomorrow has generated plenty of headlines for its innovative, disruptive 3D-printed bionic arms. The company has also helped raise nearly $370,000 on GoFundMe in the last six months to provide upper-limb prostheses to Ukrainians. They’re conducting the campaign in partnership with a global impact organization called the Singularity Group. Siemens Caring Hands chipped in with a large donation that covers the costs for 25 amputees. Get more information at the Unlimited Tomorrow Global Initiative’s website.
A couple of months ago we wrote about Jeff Erenstone and Todd Stone’s trip to Ukraine through Operation Namaste. The organization is focused on expanding Ukraine’s capacity to treat amputees by training the nation’s prosthetists in the most recent technology (including 3D-printed and thermoformable sockets). Erenstone also equipped a partner clinic with a mobile lab he developed (the Limbkit) that fits easily into the back of a van or pickup, giving prosthetists the ability to serve amputees who can’t travel to a clinic in Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa, or another reasonably secure city. Donate at Operation Namaste’s website.
Two other organizations to note before we dash off: The Right to Walk Foundation brought three Ukrainian amputees to San Diego and paid for their prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation. And Designed to Live, a US organization based in Latvia, has been providing prosthetic care to Ukrainian amputees in Cesis.