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Cleveland EMS paramedic heading to Ukraine to help with medical needs

Cleveland EMS paramedic heading to Ukraine to help with medical need
Posted at 1:14 PM, Mar 18, 2022

CLEVELAND — People across Northeast Ohio are helping the people of Ukraine in any way they can from sending donations, to gathering supplies, and even preparing to open up their homes to refugees.

Now, a Cleveland EMS paramedic is heading over to the country to help out with the medical needs there.

Ryan Nicolai's entire life has been dedicated to service.

“I think that a lot of it stems from just growing up. My parents were both sick. I was taking care of them. Kind of developed a habit of taking care of other people,” said Nicolai.

That led to nine years in the Marine Corps and the past two and a half years as a paramedic. He’s been with Cleveland EMS for a year and a half. But very soon, he’ll be leaving Northeast Ohio for the war-torn landscape of Ukraine.

“I'm not Ukrainian or anything, but I can still empathize with, you know, this is terrible. I couldn't imagine being a father or a brother or somebody over there having to worry about my family in that way,” said Nicolai.

Nicolai says he chose to go because he’s capable and he thinks it's the right thing to do.

“I didn't have the paramedic background when Syria happened. So I would have just gotten in the way. Same thing for South Sudan and other crises. I just didn't have the ability. But now I can help so I want to,” said Nicolai.

Nicolai’s fianceé, Sophie, is a Belgium native and is helping out in that country by gathering supplies and donating. Heading out on the front lines is Nicolai’s way of giving back by using his unique skill-set as a Marine and paramedic to help those in desperate need. He'll be teaching things like basic life-saving techniques and combat casualty care.

“They had the maternity ward hit and the pediatric hospitals got hit. So thankfully Cleveland continues our pediatric education so they asked if I could come early and help out a little bit, just because they're totally overloaded,” said Nicolai.

For his safety, Nicolai can’t say exactly where he’s going in Ukraine or when he’s leaving, he just knows it will be soon and maybe in a matter of days. He also doesn’t know how long he’ll be there.

“We’re willing to stay for, you know, several months if we can. Obviously, everybody's got a say in that. Ukraine has a say in that. Russia has a say in it. If it gets too hot, obviously we'll have to leave. You know, we're not trying to take unnecessary risks. We're just trying to help, you know, not get in the way of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian staff over there,” said Nicolai.

While his focus will be on the people in Ukraine, Nicolai said he’ll also be thinking of the folks he serves back home in Northeast Ohio.

“Obviously, there's a huge Ukrainian population in Cleveland in the area, in Ohio. So I don't know, in some ways, it feels kind of like I'm still helping Cleveland going over there,” said Nicolai. “Just helping one more person. Just the same as here, you know, just one more person.”

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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