Yevheniya Sydorova didn’t know anything about medicine before the war. Now she raises tens of thousands of euros every month for the Ukrainian health sector.
Before 24 February, Yevheniya was a user interface and user experience designer for a Ukrainian IT company. She didn't know anything about medicine or pharmacology. With the start of the bombings, her life changed dramatically.
“I got a call from a doctor and former classmate in March, who said: ‘Do you know anyone who can help with medication? The hospital is running out’,” Yevheniya recalled.
The woman said that she couldn’t grasp the scale of the horror that was engulfing Ukraine all of a sudden. She led a comfortable life prior to the all-out invasion.
“I got treatments from private clinics. My insurance company brought my medication directly to my home. I couldn’t even imagine that a hospital could run out of drugs,” she said.
Yevheniya’s friend provided her with a list of items that were needed. She managed to buy some of them with her own salary but decided to crowdfund through social media for the remaining articles.
“I wrote a post about the situation,” she explained. “Forty or fifty minutes later, we had the $1,000 that we needed. People kept sending money. And that’s how it took off: we were receiving one donation after the other.”
To cope with the demand, Yevheniya joined forces with friends and acquaintances and created a volunteer group called “Liky.help” (“liky” means “medication” in Ukrainian -ed.). They focused on helping intensive care units where wounded Ukrainian soldiers were being admitted.
“I was horrified with the situation,” she recalled. “Imagine a seriously injured soldier during combat who survives all the way into government-controlled territory, arrives at a hospital, only to be told there is no medication. I just thought: ‘how could that happen?’ You make it to the hospital alive, but you die there because there’s no ‘Albuven’.”
Albuven is a blood substitute which has become one of the most “popular” drugs.
“You need it when a wounded person loses a lot of blood. Without help from outside, you can’t restore the body. Very powerful antibiotics, such as Tigecycline, work when nothing else can help. It's hardcore. They also need Omeprazole constantly. The men and women in intensive care do not consume food in the classic way as they are fed through a tube. This is a big burden on the stomach, and to avoid bleeding, this medication is needed. The hospital needs about 160 vials a day,” Yevheniya explained.
Over three months, Liky.help grew from a small voluntary group of people running around pharmacies to buy necessary drugs into an organisation that can facilitate the provision of an anesthesia station to a hospital.
“We understand that supplying 500,000-hryvnia-worth of medicines (about 16,000 euros) every month is not enough. For example, in the hospital we help there were three anesthesia stations in the operating theater, but all three broke down due to heavy usage. I realised that the equipment was under pressure as it was being used much more than in the past. The surgeries were being carried out 24/7, so the equipment just couldn’t handle it. And one anesthesia station costs hundreds of thousands of euros. It’s [like] a Lamborghini,” Yevheniya explained.
There are issues with other medical equipment, too, she noted
“Some equipment costs even more, so it's more difficult to raise enough money through social media.. The Germans are going to send us an ultrasound machine that costs a couple hundred thousand euros, said Yevheniya about volunteers from the city of Tübingen. We’re also receiving generators because if there is no electricity in the city, how will surgeries be performed?” asked Yevheniya.
Liky.help started from personal connections: friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends. With time, then the movement grew and attracted complete strangers. The volunteer group from Tübingen got wind of the project through one of Yevheniya’s university friends.
The founder also looked on Linkedin for donations from abroad.
In fact, she contacted the Swiss and Austrian Red Cross for help but was told that they were not able to supply medicines to Ukraine.
“I don’t know [why]. We talked on LinkedIn, I didn’t ask for an explanation. We just accepted it,” she said.
Today, Liky.help has changed the way it works and Yevheniya and her fellow volunteers buy medication in advance.
“We analysed what drugs were constantly in demand and in what quantities. We talked to the hospital, asked them for a list of drugs that I call ‘strategic,’ the ones that are always needed. And we decided that we would buy medicines in advance, because if they’re not needed today, they will be needed tomorrow,” Yevheniya explained.
Although Linky.help buys more than the hospital asks for, there are times when drugs run out almost as soon as they are supplied.
Last month, Liky.help provided 700,000 hryvnias worth of assistance (around 22,400 euros) and Yevheniya and her colleaguesare not planning to slow down.
“Of course, we would feel more comfortable if we had a million hryvnias a month,” laughed Yevheniya.