|Local orthopedic surgeon Dr. Thomas Knox recently sent some orthopedic plates and screws to Ukraine to help with the war effort. Knox had received the items from the Stryker company to help those with long-bone fractures - such as in the forearms and legs - the kind of injuries that need immediate attention. One set of these plates has the potential to help 30 to 40 people, depending on their injuries.
HELEN MANSFIELD/THE BAXTER BULLETIN
Local Doctor has Enlarged Heart
By Helen Mansfield
While Dr. Thomas Knox is a well-known and highly-respected orthopedic surgeon in the Twin Lakes Area, over the years he has demonstrated that he has an altruistic and giving heart, which may indicate he may have missed the opportunity to become a cardiac surgeon.
The Good Doctor and his wife Deborah Knox were instrumental in the construction of the Donald W. Reynolds Library Serving Baxter County, and have quietly donated money over the years to a number of charitable organizations, oftentimes trying to stay out of the public eye while doing so.
According to his long-time friend Mark Kemp, Knox has once again been working quietly behind the scenes since February, when Russian forces invaded Ukraine. He said while it's been difficult to get such things as medical supplies to the people of Ukraine, Kemp has a pair of friends named Edward Ma and Dr. Steve Orten who found a path from Krakow, Poland, across the border into Ukraine.
Knox and Kemp bonded over their mutual love of riding motorcycles - a hobby that has no doubt created a number of patients for Knox over his lifetime.
Kemp is a retired software developer from Tulsa who had sold a copy of his electronic healthcare software to Knox more than 20 years ago. Two of Kemp's best friends are a plastic surgeon out of the Dallas area named Orten and an entrepreneur named Ma. The two of them both formed individual charities named The Face of Hope and Ed's Friends to facilitate the rapid movement of medications, medical supplies, medical equipment, reconstructive surgery services, ambulances and a wide range of protective gear for the Ukrainian soldiers.
Orten, a prominent plastic surgeon out of Plano, graduated number one in his class from the University of Oklahoma. He is now dedicating more of his time to his charity Face of Hope to perform surgeries at the Military Medical Clinical Center of the Western Region as well as the local children's hospital where he repairs cleft palates for children.
As a young man, Ma volunteered to serve in the Peace Corps and was stationed in Dnipro, Ukraine where he taught English to the locals. After that, he studied in the Wharton MBA program and graduated with a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from University of Pennsylvania. He then returned to Ukraine and started a solar panel business that had become fairly successful, but Ma closed up approximately eight years ago when
Russia annexed Crimea.
When the shelling began in Ukraine, Ma mobilized to get a relief effort started and reached out to his friends. Since those early days of attacks, Ed's Friends partnered with Australian donors who provided 23 used ambulances and other emergency vehicles that they were able to get across the border. The vehicles are driven by Polish, American and Australian volunteers who painted, repaired and sometimes re-fitted four-wheel-drive vehicles into an ambulance.
Each off-road ambulance can bring back from the war zone up to 20 wounded soldiers/civilians per day. He said Ma and his volunteer team will go to the Ukraine and spend a few dicey days every month driving ambulances loaded with supplies to the front line MASH units, and then he returns to Dallas where he works for Toyota.
"After Mark talked to me, I thought I could help with implants for traumatic fracture care," Knox said.
He sent over some orthopedic plates and screws that he had received from the Stryker company to help those with long-bone fractures - such as in the forearms and legs - the kind of injuries that need immediate attention. One set of these plates has the potential to help 30 to 40 people, depending on their injuries.
Knox received a letter of gratitude from Valerij Savysky, the Chief of the Ukrainian Military Medical Academy for the donation of the Stryker plates. The letter reads:
"Dear Dr. Knox, We are so grateful for your help in providing Stryker tools and plates to our orthopedic Unit. As we are dealing with a big number of injured military personal [sic] we are so happy to receive valuable plates which will allow us to treat our patients using high standards of care. We want to send our love an [sic] appreciation to you and to Stryker Company which is now known not only as leading world producer but also a Team with a big heart which opened the hand of help for those in need.
Ukraine is fighting not only for independence but also for freedom for the whole world and we are amaze [sic] with the help of American people which [sic] know what it means.
We wish you and Stryker Company peace and prosperity and all possible blessings for your wonderful gift."
Most recently, Knox has reached out to additional orthopedic plate manufacturers, such as the Smith and Nephew company of England, to see if they would be willing to donate some sets.
"The sadness over there is unbelievable," Knox said of the situation in Ukraine. "We should be helping as a country and as human beings."
Kemp is hopeful that Smith & Nephew Corporation will provide $250,000 worth of plates and surgical rods.
"If they donate, both Dr. Knox and a company representative are going to deliver the plates and rods in person," Kemp said. "Dr Knox will probably perform surgeries at the military hospital."
Knox has visited some of the former Soviet Bloc countries over the years, having toured the countryside on a motorcycle. He recounted a story from a man named Matte, who told him a story of when the Nazis came to his father to take the family's only cow and six chickens. His father pleaded with the soldier, telling him the animals were needed to feed his seven children. The Nazi soldier pulled a gun on Matte's father and told him he was going to take the animals regardless, but if he continued to argue with him, he would die in the process.
"The people over there are not quitters," he said of the Ukrainian people. "Hearing the stories about growing up in Yugoslavia- you can't imagine in this day and age what it's like to be subjugated like that. It gives you an idea of what living under Soviet rule was like."
For more information on Ed's Friends, visit its website at edsfriends.org
Editor's note: I would like to thank Mark Kemp for contacting me to tell me about Dr. Thomas Knox's work in aiding the Ukrainian people. Even the members of his staff at Knox Orthopedics were not aware of his donation.
Article and photo by Helen Mansfield originally published Friday, November 4, 2022 in The Baxter Bulletin.
Reprinted courtesy of The Baxter Bulletin.