After more than a year of unrelenting war, Ukraine civilians and military personnel have endured bombs and concussion blasts. For some, proximity to explosions has resulted in substantial hearing loss.
The rise in such injuries have increased demand in eight western Ukrainian cities for portable audiology lab equipment to help diagnose and treat patients.
Dr. Peter Marincovich joined with Ukraine expatriate and former exchange student Andriy Lesyshyn, vice president for trusts and investments with Exchange Bank, to find and ship otoscopes to Lesyshyn’s native country and place them in the right hands.
An otoscope is a small, handheld tool which shines a beam of light into the ears to help doctors visualize and examine the condition of the ear canal and eardrum. Blast-related damage can cause a range of hearing impairments, such as head and acoustic trauma, torn or ruptured ear drums, tinnitus and other nerve-related auditory processing disorders.
“From the day this war started, I recognized the inherent dangers of loud noises making crucial communications problematic or rendering hearing permanently damaged. What if troops can no longer follow or respond to unheard instructions or become unbalanced from inner ear injuries? Or what if innocent civilians with impaired hearing cannot recognize the sound of take-cover sirens or incoming rockets in time to seek shelter?” Marincovich said.
Exchange Bank trust officer Andriy Lesyshyn, left, pictured with his brother Vasyl Lesyshyn, pause for a photo while working at a humanitarian aid center in Poland in 2022. (Andriy Lesyshyn photo)
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The doctor is establishing a nonprofit organization, to be called For Ukraine From the Heart™, a name reflecting his empathy for helping patients in Ukraine receive audiology diagnostic tools and treatment.
Twenty otoscopes have been delivered to date. More aid is planned, but Marincovich says it is too early to predict what this will include given future unforeseen circumstances.
He also heard reports that some soldiers with hearing problems don’t want to be pulled off the battlefield, preferring to continue fighting rather than seek treatment. From experience, Marincovich understood that while ears collect sounds, the brain connects them, and that concussive impacts pose extreme hearing risks.
The dilemma for Marincovich was how to obtain otoscopes in quantity and then find a way to deliver them to medical facilities 6,277 miles away.
That’s where Lesyshyn, originally from the town of Drohobych in western Ukraine, came in. Four months earlier, in March of 2022, he returned to Eastern Europe to visit his brother in Warsaw, Poland. He wanted to join him and volunteer at a humanitarian aid distribution center just outside Ukraine’s border.
“While there I checked with family members and friends in Ukraine asking them for ways to help,” Lesyshyn said. “I was reminded that one of my brother’s close friends from medical school had become a military doctor.”
Lesyshyn asked his brother to check with his doctor friend on what was urgently needed. The doctor said there was an acute need for audiology equipment. “If you can send us otoscopes it would be a great help.”
Without such devices, Ukraine ear, nose and throat doctors had resorted to using flashlights and mirrors to conduct ear exams.
Returning to Sonoma County, Lesyshyn looked for ways to help his countrymen. He went online to Amazon to research otoscope manufacturers while also planning to reach out to local audiologists in Santa Rosa. The big question — who would be willing to help?
A colleague recommended Marincovich, owner and director of Audiology Associates in Santa Rosa.
Lesyshyn wrote a letter and hand delivered it the same day, saying that he was not looking for a donation, but was inquiring as to how to obtain otoscopes and if the doctor could help through his medical equipment suppliers.
Marincovich purchased 20 otoscopes at $700 each. Together they found a private Ukrainian shipping company (MEEST-America), accepting humanitarian aid cargo destined for Ukraine.
This firm arranged for the otoscopes to get to Lesyshyn’s nephew in Ukraine, arriving in about two weeks. In turn, his nephew made sure they would be delivered to Ukraine ear, nose and throat doctor who would distribute the devices to medical colleagues at eight hospitals — mostly in the western part of Ukraine, away from front line battlefields.
“Our intention was, and still is, for thousands of lives to be touched in positive ways,” said Marincovich. “Can we imagine, under the best of circumstances how difficult it is to hear amid extremely loud warfare.”
“If for a few moments we could walk in the boots of Ukrainians today as they attempt to hear a comrade in action or have a precious conversation with a whispering child or other loved one who is so close, yet unable to understand, each one of us would be happy to hear.”
North Bay Business Journal Special Correspondent Gary Quackenbush ([email protected]) was West Coast editor for Telecommunications Magazine, and later wrote for the Windsor Times and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.
Original Article found here, at North Bay Business Journal.