Moreland nurse seeking medical supplies, heading to Ukraine

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Pictured above: Global Augmentation Group is working with other organizations to get food, water, medical supplies and help to people in war-ravaged Ukraine.

By WINSTON SKINNER, Special to Winters Media & Publishing

When the war in Ukraine got started, Debra Conaway knew that she had to go.

“I got really, really upset,” she said. Part of it was her heritage.

“Both sets of great-grandparents fled Russia and came through Ellis Island,” she said. Trouble in the area where her ancestors lived struck a chord.

“The way it sounded to me, it was as if we are starting another World War II,” Conaway said.

Then there was her chosen profession. Conaway is a nurse. Though she has not worked in nursing for several years, the commitment she made long ago to help others compelled her to look at a way to touch lives of people in desperate straits in Ukraine.

Debra Conaway

Conaway reflected on some women she knew who were young adults when World War II was beginning. Some had told her they cannot watch documentaries about Hitler’s rise to power or the invasions of Germany’s neighbors. They can’t watch because they remember it and remember ignoring what was happening and believing it did not affect them.

“We’re instantly connected to everything that’s going on in the world,” Conaway firmly stated.

“My parents always taught me if you’re really upset about something, do something about it. You need to somehow show your support – or don’t complain about it,” Conaway said.

She started looking online for groups who were helping in Ukraine. She soon found the Global Augmentation Group, a new organization with a motto – “We will find a way” – that fit with exactly what she was feeling.

“Our organization began as a loose connection of volunteers from other organizations who knew something had to be done. We made connections and contacts and began assisting the community and country along with other NGOs,” said Nicholas Shaw, Global Augmentation Group’s chief executive officer.

The group is doing several tasks in Ukraine – delivering supplies where they are needed, offering tactical casualty care training for physicians and working with the government to deal appropriately with areas where there are mines or other unexploded ordinance.

Evacuating families is an ongoing task for Global Augmentation Group volunteers. In cities, people may be hiding in a home, apartment building or somewhere else. Global Augmentation Group “will try to come in and get them,” Conaway said.

The group started with a loaner van but acquired one in early May. Global Augmentation Group volunteers are paying for expenses and other items out of their own pocket.

“We have been spending hundreds of dollars each time to go to a village or town near the front, buy supplies, then drive to the area of need,” Shaw said.

The group’s team members also join with other convoys of equipment and supplies to reach out to all areas of the country. “So far we have delivered tons of food, water, and generators to areas of need,” Shaw said.

“Augmentation” is a key part of the group’s description.

“We augment when and where we can,” Shaw said. “We are not tied down to one specific mission.”

Shaw described the situation in Ukraine as “very fluid.”

Citizens who evacuated have started returning to Kyiv and western areas of the country.

“Life is beginning to resume,” Shaw said. “However, as ‘normal’ as life may be, there are still military personnel everywhere and defensive preparations are visible.”

Many businesses remain closed because employees have either joined the Ukrainian military or are supporting the fight for freedom there in other ways. 

“For example, lots of restaurants are still closed because the chefs are helping cook for the troops,” Shaw said.

“In the south and east, the situation is definitely different. Shelling and rocket salvos are common. Fighting is intense, and communities are being destroyed,” Shaw said.

Global Augmentation Group is looking forward to having Conaway join them in Ukraine.

“Having a volunteer mindset is key,” Shaw said. “We hope to provide medical aid when we can.”

Ukraine has a functional medical system, and officials have now allowed reciprocity to foreign medical workers.

“The goal would be able to assist medically when we deliver aid to communities and assist in evacuating refugees,” Shaw said.

Conaway, who lives near Moreland, is hoping area residents will help with funds and supplies for the needs in Ukraine. She has set up a GoFundMe page – https://www.gofundme.com/f/we-will-find-a-way?qid=ee0ecd0ba01857756c2037e6d84e83e9 – which offers a method to donate funds and a way to find out about medical supplies that are needed. If Conaway gets them in time, she can take the supplies with her to Ukraine.

Information is also available at http://globalauggroup.org.

Global Augmentation Group is gathering IFAKS, first aid kits similar to those used in the military. 

“They need just about anything anybody could use,” Conaway said. “They’re looking especially for medical supplies.”

Global Augmentation Group’s advance teams arrived in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, on April 25. Conaway is planning to fly out with two doctors on June 6. Her husband, a former Army Ranger, will fly with her and return to Georgia for work.

“Right now, I’m planning to go for three months,” Conaway said. If she is still needed, Conaway said she may opt to stay in Ukraine longer.

Seeing what is happening in Ukraine helps Conaway keep the everyday problems Americans experience in perspective.

She thinks of those ancestors who escaped that part of the world to come to the United States. “I feel like my great-grandpa will be proud of me,” she reflected.

“It’s me. I’m doing this for me,” Conaway said. “I still feel that need to do something. I want to channel it into something that really concerns me.”

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