Special project 10:35 12 Jun 2023

BGV Charitable Foundation helps Kherson volunteer get the new limb

Before the full-scale invasion, Vadym Saulkin lived in Kherson. When the Russian soldiers came to his hometown, he realized he had to act. Like other people from Kherson, Saulkin went to pro-Ukrainian rallies and rebelled against the invaders. After the city's full occupation, he couldn't leave because he had to care for his mother. Saulkin calls it a miracle that he was not found and arrested during the occupation, but after the Ukrainian army liberated Kherson, Saulkin's trials did not end but only began.

On December 24, 2022, Saulkin came under enemy fire in the center of Kherson and lost his leg. BGV Charitable Foundation team heard about Saulkin's story and decided to help with prosthetics. This is how Saulkin got to Estonia, where he received a chance for a new full-fledged life.

Rubryka met Saulkin twice — before and after he got his prosthetics in the Tallinn clinic. He told about the first fitting of the prosthesis, phantom pains, and poems about Kherson, which he wrote during his stay in the clinic.

Rubryka journalists spoke with Saulkin before the disaster at the Kakhovska hydroelectric power plant. However, at the time of publication of the text, his house is flooded. He stayed in the city to help his relatives and neighbors. If you want to support Saulkin financially, his card number is at the end of the text.

The first to join Dobrobat after de-occupation

Occupied Kherson. Pro-Ukrainian rally in the city center. Vadym Saulkin chants along with the crowd. He shouts: "Putin…" — the crowd answers. He continues: "Russian military ship…" — they answer again with a well-known phrase, and then everyone chants:

"Kherson is Ukraine!

Kherson is Ukraine!

 Kherson is Ukraine!"

At that time, Saulkin was one of the most active protesters. At the beginning of March 2022, he and other Kherson residents went to the city center and resisted the enemy army. The protests stopped when the Russians began to disperse the crowd with weapons. The city was occupied for over eight months, and its inhabitants looked forward to city liberation.

протези для українців

Saulkin shows videos from rallies in which he participated

Saulkin says that he could not leave without his mother. He had to care for her, so he stayed in the city. He shares that he was surprised the Russians didn't take him away. Everyone at the rallies was kidnapped, and somehow he got lucky. However, Khersonian was always anxious, and every time the car drove past the house, he prayed to God, wishing it would pass by.

благодійний фонд БГВ

Saulkin talks about his experience

After the de-occupation, Saulkin was the first to join the Volunteer Construction Battalion to help put the city in order. Together with other volunteers, he went to various residential and infrastructure facilities, trying to repair as much as possible.

"Mishanya, the cyclist, saved me"

On December 24, on the eve of Catholic Christmas, Saulkin decided to go to the market to buy food before another trip to repair work. At the same time, the central part of Kherson was subjected to massive shelling. That day, 11 townspeople died, and 64 more were seriously injured, and Saulkin was one of them.

Saulkin was going to the market through the central square, where children were walking the dogs and playing in the street, when suddenly, two shells exploded nearby. "A man was walking twenty meters away from me — he died. My leg immediately came off; I clamped it, prayed to God not to lose consciousness, and screamed for help like a madman," Saulkin recalls the events of that horrible day. "I remember one guy came up, got scared, and ran away. Another came up, got scared, and ran away. Cyclist Mishanya saved me."

протез для ногиSaulkin shows a photo of himself right after his leg was torn off

After the shelling, Mykhailo from Kherson goes to the places affected and helps those who need it. He applied a tourniquet to Saulkin's open wound to stop the bleeding. Other fragments were captured by the belt and bag Saulkin wore — if it weren't for the bag, he would also lose the second leg.

Волонтери, Херсон

Saulkin shows a photo of his savior, the cyclist Mykhailo

First, surgery, then the burn ward — Saulkin was in the hospital for almost a month and a half. Saulkin's friend Larysa, also a volunteer, having learned about the initiative of the BGV Charitable Foundation of Gennady Butkevich and the Estonian government, contacted the foundation's representatives. Subsequently, BGV partners helped transport the wounded from Kherson to Kyiv. Thus began the story of Saulkin's return to a full life.

The BGV Foundation, together with the government of Estonia, launched and is implementing a joint program for free prosthetics and rehabilitation of Ukrainians who lost their limbs due to hostilities in Ukraine.

Prosthetics is carried out in Tallinn on the basis of Ida-Tallinn Keskhaigla (East Tallinn Central Clinical Hospital), one of the most modern hospitals in Estonia. The medical institution is one of the largest in the country: it includes seven clinics, and the staff consists of more than 2,500 employees. As part of the program, patients are manufactured and fitted with state-of-the-art electronic prosthetics that are individually adjusted to the needs of a specific user. The cost of one such prosthesis reaches €70-80 thousand.

The foundation's team says that, at first, they dealt exclusively with humanitarian needs — aid supplies from Europe, children's projects, and support for medical facilities and Ukrainian defenders.

"Back in the fall, we held a charity event at the initiative of the foundation, its founder, and Oleksandr Usyk. The event was timed to the athlete's victory, and the goal was to raise funds for the military," says Stechyshina. "Among the event's guests were Ukraine's defenders, many of whom had lost limbs. The event was held, funds were collected, and the unit was helped." At this event, the first discussions of the rehabilitation and integration of defenders into society after the injury started.

Then the second event happened — one of the units the foundation was taking care of came under enemy fire. A large part of the unit did not survive, and the defender that the team was in contact with lost his leg. This was the second point when BGV began to look for ways to help as many soldiers as possible to regain independence and the ability to move freely, says Stechyshina.

While working out the idea, the foundation met representatives of the Estonian government interested in starting to help systematically. This is how the interaction began, which at the time of publication of this material, already put four defenders on their feet. Two of them are already in the clinic at the stage of prosthetics. A few more wounded are preparing to go to Estonia. The foundation plans to provide prosthetics to twenty Ukrainians in the near future.

допомога з протезуванням

Saulkin is preparing for a trip to Tallinn

 On February 12, 2023, Rubryka's journalists and Saulkin's friends saw him off on his way. He was supposed to take two cars to Tallinn, where he would undergo rehabilitation at a clinic. After a month and a half, Saulkin told Rubryka about his experience.

програма протезування

Saulkin is saying goodbye to Rubryka's journalists

An electronic prosthesis with three modes — walking, cycling and rollers

 Saulkin returned to Kyiv on March 31, 2023 — with a smile on his face, a new leg, and a desire to move forward. During his time in Estonia, he was fitted with an electronic prosthesis and underwent a rehabilitation course. Initially, Khersonian had a trial stump receiver made in two days, which he used for two days. It fitted perfectly, and they made him a permanent one in a week. Saulkin suddenly got coronavirus and was sent to a sanatorium for treatment. His stump got smaller while he was being treated, and the prosthetic no longer fitted. The doctor insisted that it be replaced. That's why he had to stay in Estonia for a while.

допомога людям, які втратили ноги

Saulkin shares his thoughts of the new limb

протези ніг

Saulkin showed how he puts on the prosthetic

"First, I put this elastic on my leg. Then I insert it into the prosthetic, and, you see, the vacuum has worked. Now everything is firmly fitted, and I can walk."

електронні протези

Saulkin showed how he puts on the prosthetic

Such an electronic prosthetic is supposed to be more convenient and functional than a mechanical one. It has different modes that can be adjusted depending on the lifestyle of its owner. For his prosthesis, Saulkin chose modes of walking, cycling, and rollerblading, "The doctor said: 'If you go rollerblading, definitely send a video because no one has done it yet,'" Saulkin smiles.

електронні протези ніг

This is what the application looks like, in which you can switch the modes of the prosthetics

Saulkin showed how easy it is to switch modes by clicking on the desired icon in the mobile application, which communicates with the prosthesis via Bluetooth.

електронні протези

Saulkin shows the charge level of his prosthesis

The prosthetic can be fully charged in less than one night. The charge is enough for two days of full use.

Saulkin remembers the first time he put on a prosthetic incorrectly, which caused him severe pain, so that he couldn't stand for several days. Later he managed to correct the position of the prosthetic and was immediately able to take the first steps with his new leg.

протези для цивільних

Saulkin's electronic prosthetic

"Everything will be fine with you"

After installing the prosthetic, Saulkin regularly trained every day in the gym together with a physiotherapist:

"The exercises were simple. If a person wants to work, they will work — with or without a physiotherapist. The main thing is to have a desire and a goal. If there is a desire and a goal, then everything will be fine with you."

Daily exercises include walking, climbing and descending stairs, exercise bike, and more. Saulkin says besides classes with the doctor, he did exercises and other training independently.

Saulkin is feeling well now. While walking, he still uses a cane for support, but soon he will be able to walk without it. The main thing is time and work on yourself.

протезування ніг

Saulkin shares his plans for the future

Once every two years, Saulkin needs to visit the certification center of the Ottobock company, which produced this prosthetic, for mechanical diagnostics. You can contact the same centers if you have questions or problems using the prosthesis.

Coming back home

Saulkin applied for this year's National Competition Invictus Games but was not accepted because, according to the rules, only fighters and veterans who have suffered injuries can participate. 

"I'm a volunteer, but I would be happy to participate. I took up swimming and cycling, I have a cycling regimen, and I used to swim as a child," Saulkin shares his dream.

благодійний фонд БГВ

Saulkin shows a video where he recites his poems

The day after returning to Kyiv, Saulkin went home to his native Kherson. He would finally see his mother there after a long time, and then he plans to return to the Volunteer Construction Battalion to help everyone however he can. After all, Saulkin will definitely not be able to sit idle.

Even though life in relatively peaceful Ukrainian cities is booming, the war is not abating either. It continues to bring death, destruction, and much pain. And the main task for today is not to leave anyone alone with this pain.

 If you feel like supporting Saulkin's family, here is the card number to which you can send help:

5168745613882809 — Saulkina Larysa

Details that can be used to support other people affected by the hydroelectric power plant explosion:

  • Charitable organization Vostok-SOS Charitable Foundation (helps people with evacuation and housing)
    EDRPOU code: 39764400
    IBAN: UA893005280000026007455028483
    Purpose of payment: Charity contribution
    PayPal: [email protected]
    UAH: 5375411206358702
    EUR: 5168745021611964
    USD: 5168745031323527
  • Charitable fund Monsters Corporation (raises funds for the purchase of boats and motors)
    Private: 4246001003297797;
    PayPal in $ [email protected]

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