November 2, 2022

Helping hearts: Team sends much-needed pacemakers to Ukraine

Ukraine is the most recent country to receive refurbished pacemakers from Michigan Medicine's unique My Heart Your Heart program.

Eric Puroll refurbishing devices
My Heart Your Heart Project Coordinator Eric Puroll works to prepare refurbished devices in the team's lab.

Colleagues from Project My Heart Your Heart, a pacemaker-reuse initiative for overseas patients in-need, have shipped life-saving devices around the world. In places like Venezuela, Ghana, the Philippines and Kenya, people who could never afford a new device have received reconditioned pacemakers through the unique UMMS program.

That list recently expanded to include Ukraine, where the ongoing war has disrupted aspects of medical care and left providers scrambling to find solutions for patients.

“The most critical situation is the lack of pacemakers. Chaos caused by the war led to complete blockade of access to these devices. As a result, patients with critical bradycardia are suffering. We are desperate for any functional pacemakers, even if previously used,” Serhii Prorok, MD, an Electrophysiologist in Kyiv, reported recently in the journal Heart Rhythm O2

The My Heart Your Heart team, under Professor of Internal Medicine Thomas Crawford, shipped 20 devices to Ukraine this summer, including 10 to Dr. Prorok’s Clinical Hospital Feofania. Like all the pacemakers distributed through the program, the devices shipped to Ukraine underwent thorough reconditioning, sterilization, and evaluation processes to ensure safety and substantial longevity.

“Access to pacemaker therapy in Ukraine was very poor due to the economic challenges the country was facing even before the current Russian invasion. Then, the need for assistance was urgent; now it is dire,” said Crawford, MD.

Three of the devices sent to Prorok have already been implanted in grateful patients, the doctor confirmed this month, and The My Heart Your Heart team has more devices ready to ship to Ukraine, if requested.

“While My Heart Your Heart was not begun with war-torn areas specifically in mind, it is gratifying for our team to know that these devices are able to reach patients in Ukraine, where the conflict has strained the systems and the people to the limits. This is one small way that we can help,” said Crawford.