Limbs for Liberty treats first Ukrainian amputee in Colorado ￼
Special to the Vail Daily
Earlier this year, Vail Valley residents Kelli Rohrig, Tyler Schmidt and a group of supporters launched Limbs for Liberty, a nonprofit that matches prosthetic doctors with Ukrainians who have lost limbs as a result of the war. On Sunday, the nonprofit is bringing its first Ukrainian amputee to Colorado.
Though Limbs for Liberty has matched several other Ukrainian amputees with doctors in Minnesota and Florida, 23-year-old Andrey Chersak will be the first to receive a prosthetic by a Colorado doctor, through Hanger Clinic in Boulder. Limbs for Liberty has raised $15,000 to fund Chersak’s flight, food and other expenses.
Chersak’s first appointment at Hanger Clinic is Dec. 19. He will stay with a family in Breckenridge from Dec. 19-28, as well as families in Fort Collins, while doctors assess his needs and plan a course of treatment. He is scheduled to receive the actual prosthetic in early January, just in time to start a fresh, new year after the nightmare that has been 2022.
Chersak was a 24-year-old fitness trainer before he joined the fight to defend his country, fell under machine gun attack and lost his legs above the knee and suffered multiple chest wounds.
“For us, getting a prosthesis is the most pleasant thing I wanted, because I don’t have leg, because I constantly have an unstoppable desire to go,” Chersak said.
Chersak has never left Ukraine and never flown on an airplane. Typically, Limbs for Liberty pairs an amputee with someone to travel with, but a last-minute appointment became available at Hanger Clinic, so Rohrig and her team didn’t have time to set up further assistance. And, as if leaving home and navigating international travel wasn’t challenging enough, Chersak just spent 24 hours on a bus to reach Kraków, Poland, where he flies out.
In addition to scheduling doctor appointments and setting up accommodations, Rohrig is taking care of the minutest details, like the timing of avalanche-control bombings at Breckenridge Ski Resort. The resort will text her on the mornings they will be setting off bombs so that the family Chersak is staying with can explain to him that “’There’s going to be bombs, but it’s a different kind of bomb,’ so that Andrey knows everything’s fine, that this is what we do,” Rohrig said.
Bringing amputees to Colorado for treatment has been a goal since Limbs of Liberty started.
“For me, this shows that with some support, commitment and positive thinking, we can overcome any obstacles and help amputees and innocent victims of war,” Rohrig said. “This gives us more motivation to keep going.”
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