MUSCATINE, Iowa — Muscatine ambulances set off on a mission Thursday, June 9 to help transport those impacted by medical emergencies, but their final destination was far beyond Muscatine city limits.
Battalion Chief for the Muscatine Fire Department Gary Ronzheimer was searching for ways the department could help support the citizens of Ukraine amid Russia's invasion when an opportunity presented itself.
The battalion chief got the idea after coming across a story about OSF HealthCare System working to send medical supplies and ambulances to Ukraine. The fire department had two ambulances with more than 200,000 miles on them that could no longer be kept in service, and everything fell into place.
"I discussed donating our two older ambulances to the effort once they were declared surplus with Chief (Jerry) Ewers," Ronzheimer said, "and he agreed that this would be a great way for Muscatine to support Ukrainian Medical Services.”
Ronzheimer contacted Vice President of Government Relations at OSF Chris Manson, and together, they created a plan for how Muscatine could transport the ambulances across the world to help.
The two ambulances left Thursday morning from Muscatine. They arrived at the Chicago warehouse staging area just after noon. From there, they were boarded onto a cargo plane to transport them to Ukraine.
"They may not have additional life in this country as ambulances," Ronzheimer said, "but they still can serve to assist the sick and injured, and are badly needed in Ukraine.”
The Muscatine ambulances were the sixth and seventh to be sent to Ukraine as part of the OSF HealthCare project.
“This is an ongoing effort as, unfortunately, the need continues to grow,” Manson said in a news release. “Every day, ambulances are being destroyed in Ukraine. As soon as our ambulances arrive, they are immediately put to use across the country.”
Consulate General of Ukraine in Chicago Koledov Serhiy estimated that more than 110 ambulances have been damaged - about seven each day - during Russia's invasion of the country.