Trapped in Ukraine hospital for one month
Oksana Laumeyer of Osakis needed closure. Her father, who was living in Russia, had passed away, and she felt she needed to say goodbye.
“We took a trip to attend a funeral,” Oksana said. “And it almost cost us our lives.”
On March 2, Oksana and her husband, Tim, suffered major injuries from a car accident in Ukraine. It would take them 25 days to return home.
On February 23, Oksana’s father passed away in Krasnodar, Russia from tuberculosis (TB). Because of the illness and the fear of his body still being contagious, Russian officials had him buried by February 27, the day before Oksana and her husband, Tim, arrived to say their final goodbyes.
The next night, the couple then traveled to Ukraine, where Oksana grew up, with her sister, brother-in-law, and one of the sister’s friends. Because of the Olympic games in Sochi, crossing the Russian border at night was a much faster process than during the day. The group took off at 8:30 p.m. for Ukraine.
Driving through the night, the Laumeyers sat in the back seat of a Mazda 6 along with Oksana’s sister. The brother-in-law and friend changed drivers around 9 a.m.
“We unbuckled our seat belts to readjust,” said Tim. “15 seconds later, all hell broke loose.”
The Laumeyers believe that the driver dozed off behind the wheel and when he popped awake, he jerked the steering wheel.
“I looked up and we had jolted to the other side of the highway,” said Oksana. “I heard tires squealing.”
The car rolled into a ditch, flipping six times and landing in a field. Tim was ejected from the vehicle while Oksana was pinned underneath it.
“I gained consciousness and the car was on top of me,” Oksana recalled. “I just remember screaming for my sister, for my husband. For a second, I couldn’t even remember if I knew English.”
Oksana said that she remembered 20 to 30 people arriving to the scene of the crash. All she could focus on was if her husband, who only spoke English, would be able to tell anyone about his injuries.
“As soon as we hit the ditch,” Tim said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be good.”
Oksana received a third degree burn on her thigh, four cracks in her pelvic bone, and three breaks in her arm. Tim sustained several cracked ribs, a cracked sternum, and a knee injury. Oksana’s sister suffered from a large laceration on her leg and a bruised tailbone, while both the brother-in-law and the friend walked away with very minor injuries.
The accident was over, but their nightmare was just beginning.
They were taken to a small village about 80 miles southeast of Kiev, the nation’s capital. Once the United States Embassy was notified, it immediately tried to help.
Since both the Laumeyers were in a lying-down position at the hospital due to their injuries, flying home would have cost them up to $55,000 on the spot. Instead, they opted to get treated at a larger hospital in Ukraine until they were both safe to travel without medical assistance.
They were transferred to Chernovtsy, the town where Oksana grew up. The towns were 300 miles apart, but because of the condition of the roads in Ukraine, it took roughly 16 hours to arrive at the new hospital.
“They were driving about 20 miles an hour to avoid the potholes,” said Tim. “They even drove on sidewalks.”
While in the hospital in Chernovtsy, Oksana recalled that no one ever took her blood pressure or checked her vitals. Everything that was needed to treat the couple, all the way down to syringes and cotton swabs, had to be purchased by the Laumeyers before they could be treated. Everything had to be cash based and purchased at the pharmacy.
“Every time the nurse came into the room, we had to put money in her pocket,” Oksana said. “If we didn’t, they wouldn’t be nice to us or look at us again.”
Tim said that he had heard the stories from his wife about how bad the health care system was in Ukraine, but that it was hard to fully comprehend until he lived it.
“I had a spoon that I was supposed to knock on a piece of pipe,” Tim said. “That was the call button.”
After creating a $2,132 phone bill, Tim was able to transfer their original tickets home from March 8 to March 26, including an upgrade to first class.
Once they landed in Minneapolis, they immediately went to Douglas County Hospital, where the doctors found more broken bones and discovered that the little pain medicine Oksana was given for her injuries was the equivalent to Motrin.
“People complain about the health care system here,” Oksana said. “But they will save your life. Over there, people die because they don’t have the money to be treated.”
The Laumeyers said that when their kids entered the hospital that night to see them, it was like Christmas.
“People were so wonderful back home,” Oksana said. “They sent money; they bought groceries for my kids.
“I thought we were going to rot there,” Oksana said. “We are just so thankful for everything.”
The road to recovery is still unknown for the Laumeyers. They still have to go through tests and will need lots of therapy and a home health aide. As long as they are home, though, the couple knows they will be all right.
HOW TO HELP
A fund has been established to help the Laumeyer family with the medical expenses they incurred while recovering from a car crash in Ukraine. Make checks payable to Tim or Oksana Laumeyer and send them to BlackRidgeBANK, 3313 Highway 29 South, Alexandria, MN 56308.