A Lifeline for Oleg
Timeline - March/April 1993
A short form of this story -- Saving Oleg -- appears in
CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: Stories For A Better World (2005)

(The whole, inspiring book can also be purchased.)

See Oleg telling his story
in 2006 Russian TV news interview

(Text of broadcast)

(See 56 PHOTOS)
Published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Volume 670),
Extended Clinical Consulting By Hospital Computer Networks, December 17, 1992.

The Saving of Oleg

A USA-USSR Medical Success
Using Packet and Ham Radio,
and Electronic Mail

Lionel Traubman, DDS, MSD

    A person's soul often expresses itself when another member of our human family is in need, in danger.
    Such an expression was the devoted collaboration between amateur radio operators in the USSR and USA to rescue Oleg Murugov from the brink of death.
    Around the world, individual initiative continues to play a unique role in building bridges of understanding and cooperation, based on open dialogue and direct personal communication.
    Millions of citizens in all nations are manifesting the human spirit to save life on Earth and build a sustainable way of life -- a global community.
    In 1990, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union finally ended. Walls fell. Democracies sprang up. New partnerships began. The evolution of the human spirit continued.
    Oleg went home.

  Life and Death

  A Call to America
  Doctors and Hams Work against Time
  Medicine to Oleg and Advice from Dr. Izzo
  A Dramatic Telex
  Breathing More Easily
  Small Steps and Gratitude
  Oleg Has Visitors
  "Shake Him!"
  An Audiotape for Oleg
  Stronger and Larger Small Steps
  Home at Last
  The Next Year

An urgent call by ham radio from the USSR to the USA for emergency medical advice evoked an immediate, spontaneous, and generous human response. Within hours, an effective communications network was established, using (1) ham radio, (2) packet radio, (3) home and car telephone, (4) facsimile, (4) telex, and (5) PeaceNet computer electronic bulletin board (e-mail) transmission modes. After overcoming initial mistrust, Soviet doctors eventually accepted and appreciated American medical advice and, finally, airlifted medicine and equipment. Nightly short wave contacts, week after week, faithfully monitored patient status and provided current, accurate information for proper medical advice. At one dramatic moment, the comatose Oleg Murugov, a victim of an automobile crash, finally regained consciousness and began his slow recovery. Success can be attributed to effective networking with electronic communications equipment, some knowledge of each other's language, and the human spirit at its best -- building global medical community.


Life and Death

Late May, 1990. The highway to Moscow. Six Russian hams travelling to their national radiosport games, prepared and enthusiastic. Wind and rain. A collision. Oleg Kolotilin, RA4FB, is dead. Oleg Murugov, UA4FAY, age 25, is barely alive in a rustic, rural clinic. Compressed skull, heavy concussion, subdural hematoma, ruptured spleen, fractured shoulder blade and ribs, deep coma. With no qualified doctor or operating room.
    Igor Korolkov, UA4FER, and Alex Komlev race to the scene from Penza. They use their wits, press the Soviet system to the limit, for helicopter evacuation. They never give up, and they succeed. Within eight hours, surgery in the Ryazan hospital. Lapirotomy, bilateral decompressive skull trephination, splenectomy.

A Call to America

Day 4. The 20 meter ham radio band. Ed Kritsky, NT2X in Brooklyn, fluent in Russian, is asked for medical help by Igor, UZ4FWO, back home in Penza at the club station. "Do you know American doctors who are hams?" Ed phones Lawrence Probes, ND8S, Grand Rapids physician, and Lionel "Len" Traubman, W6HJK, San Francisco pediatric dentist. Both speak some Russian. Ed sends a FAX in Russian describing Oleg's condition. It is received and relayed by Florence and Rolf Beier in California. Len's neighbors, Dr. Rita Shkolnik, and her husband, Alex, respond to a midnight phone call for help with translation. Oleg's condition is grave. Deep coma is now complicated with left-side pneumonia. Oleg is kept alive by artificial ventilation. There are catheters in his veins and urinary tract, and tubes for feeding and breathing. Len finds Joseph Izzo, MD, a top Bay Area neurosurgeon, whose knowledge and generosity would be key. Izzo concludes, "This is major trauma. He's lucky to be alive. But recovery is possible. The next two weeks will tell." Daily 20 meter short wave schedules begin, with indispensable translating by NT2X and ND8S.

Doctors and Hams Work Against Time

Day 5. Igor talks often by telephone with Dr. Andrej Markov in the Ryazan hospital, and begins sending Dr. Izzo daily medical reports by Telex to Len's home computer. Len forwards them by PeaceNet electronic computer mail to ND8S in Michigan for translation. Oleg's condition is unchanged. A nightly schedule on 14,245 Megahertz (MHz) will continue for more than a month.

Day 7. Dr. Izzo replies to Soviet doctors. "The patient is in a very deep coma. But blood pressure and pulse appear normal. A CAT scan to detect brain swelling would be helpful. Brain swelling could be treated with diuretics, but for no longer than 48 hours. Be sure the head remains elevated 10-20 degrees to help prevent brain swelling. The head should not be horizontal. Air evacuation to a major medical center, if possible." He prescribes specific drugs and dosages. Izzo concludes, "If this coma does not change in the next two weeks, it is not likely this man will have a meaningful survival."

Day 8. Soviet doctors ask more about an arteriogram. Dr. Izzo responds. "If the doctors do not have experience with arteriograms, do not use it for this patient. There are definite risks, even in experienced hands." Vital signs do not indicate elevated intracranial pressure, and Izzo thinks sedatives may be contributing to Oleg's continued unconsciousness. "In 2 to 3 days, consider decreasing or eliminating all sedation. See if he will breath without help and if he will come out of the coma."

Day 9. More trouble. Bilateral pneumonia is beginning. There is a right side pneumothorax, deflated lung. Oleg has hypoxia, low blood oxygen. "The doctors of Ryazan Resuscitation Department ask your recommendation as quick as possible." Dr. Izzo rushes to W6HJK's microphone. "Hypoxia is probably related to Oleg's pneumonia and collapsed lung. Place a chest tube in the right side to re-expand the lung. Put him on 5 centimeters pressure with at least 50 percent oxygen. Avoid long-term 100 per cent oxygen, because of oxygen toxicity. If at all possible, evacuate by air to a major medical center."

Medicine to Oleg and Advice from Dr. Izzo

Day 10. Ed, NT2X, phones Len at 05:30. His packet radio request was answered by Angel Garcia, WA2VUY, who has located at his hospital the necessary effective, broad spectrum antibiotic for Oleg's pneumonia. The Americans will absorb all expenses. Allen Singer, N2KW, transports the medicine to the proper desk at New York's JFK Airport. Overcoming red tape at the last possible moment, the agent, Mr. Charles Mayer, further extends himself by running with the package to the plane as its doors are closing.
    Soviet doctors, at first hesitant about American help, become more friendly. They ask Dr. Izzo's opinion about all drugs in use. Oleg turns blue from inadequate oxygen, if sedatives are stopped. Dr. Izzo suggests which drug regimens to stop, continue, or modify. "Trental, Aslocilin, Vitamin E; not needed at this time. Lasix; 10 milliliters every 3 hours... caution.. don't dehydrate patient... closely watch kidney function. Dexamethasonum; remove slowly over a 2 day period... not helpful now. Stop Thiopental now, to reduce level of sedation. Substitute Morphine sulfate, 2-4 milligrams intravenously every hour, as needed to overcome voluntary respirations. Continue artificial respiration. He concludes, "Tell your doctors they are doing a fine job!"

Day 11. NT2X must leave town for several days. Short wave propagation goes down. WA2VUY comes on frequency to help relay messages to the West Coast. A ham from Penza drives through the night, overcomes customs and red tape, and rushes the package of antibiotics for Oleg to Dr. Markov in Ryazan.
    On the daily 14,245 Mhz schedule, Igor says Oleg's heart rate is high, and he remains unconscious. "Soviet doctors are very grateful for your assistance. Your advice gives them confidence that they are doing the right thing. The tubes which they use for the artificial respiration have very bad quality. They are compelled to change the tubes very often. They are afraid to damage trachea. They do need very much thermoplastic intubation and tracheostomy tubes from USA. Can you help them?"
    Dr. Izzo, always available by telephone or car phone, answers. Oleg's high heart rate may be from the high temperature caused by pneumonia infection, from low blood volume, or just general stress from the trauma. A Telex to Russia from California concludes: "Please tell the doctors we are thinking about them every minute. We feel a close kinship with them. And you, Igor, are doing a fantastic job. Spasibo!"

Day 12. Worried Soviet doctors ask, "Have you experience using electric cardiac stimulation in the case of cardiac arrest or if the heartbeating is slowing down?" W6HJK relays Dr. Izzo's response. "If there is a cardiac arrest, standard cardiac electrical shock is acceptable. However, a cardiac pacemaker is probably not advisable for Oleg, because it is doubtful that you can salvage a functional person."

Day 13. Dr. Charles Starke, NX2T, Briarcliff Manor, New York, becomes interested in Allen Singer, N2KW's packet radio plea for help. A physician experienced in trauma, he joins the evening 20 meter schedules and locates the medical tubing and Cefoxitin, a stronger antibiotic for Oleg. Singer drives at midnight to retrieve the supplies and puts them on a plane at JFK without delay.
    Igor asks, "Doc, you said it is doubtful to save my friend if there is a cardiac arrest. But have our doctors a chance to save him a life if no cardiac arrest will be? I hope that your collaboration with our doctors will bring a life to Oleg."
    Dr. Izzo tells Igor, "Yes, there is a chance to save Oleg's life. It is difficult to say at this time about the 'quality' of that life -- his ability to think, speak, and function in general." Our evening Telex to Penza concludes: "Soviets and Americans working together is a beautiful thing! We are proud to work with you. This is a new moment on Earth. Everything we do breathes new life into our relationship and, hopefully, into our brother, Oleg."

A Dramatic Telex

Day 14. An encouraging Telex flashes on Len's computer screen. "A new X-ray shows that pneumonia have been decreased a little. They feed Oleg broth via the tube into the stomach. The intestines keep the capacity to work but not very active." It concludes, "The last news from Dr. Markov about Oleg's condition: The patient have begun to open eyes, move his hands, have tried to fix the look and to carry out the commands. Soviet doctors with your help believe in success."
    Indescribable emotions on the American side. A late night return Telex is sent. "Excited to hear the good news! Agree that, except for unexpected problems, Oleg will probably recover. You have done an excellent job!"

Day 15. Oleg begins to breath independently through endotracheal tube for 2-hour periods. Pneumonia on left side only. Soviet doctors ask for ideas about feeding solutions and therapy to recover brain function.
    Charles, NX2T, is participating in schedules heavily, with medical advice, helping the West Coast connection when radio conditions are poor, and obtaining a good feeding solution to send to Oleg. With devoted help from WA2VUY and N2KW, the shipment of feeding solution is put on a plane to Moscow. Said Singer about making the air freight connection, "By now, I can do this in my sleep."
    The Telex to Russia concludes: "Thank God you learned English so well, Igor, and that radio propagation was good when we really needed it!"

Small Steps and Gratitude

Day 16. "The condition of the patient is going better by small steps. There couldn't be such success without your help." Pneumonia decreases. Oleg passes a stool independently, as tube feeding continues. Dr. Izzo responds to questions, advising for continued antibiotics, against steroids, and increasing volumes of feeding solutions as quickly as possible. For brain recovery, he recommends talking to him, playing the radio and his favorite music, and moving his extremities often.
    "When Oleg is not on the respirator, help him sit up in bed, slowly at first. Use caution elevating the head, to avoid blood pressure drops. Next, sit him on the side of the bed, then in a chair, as he will tolerate. Increase this to 1 hour, 4 times a day."

Day 17. Oleg understands speech addressed to him and tries to carry out simple commands. Intravenous and tube feeding continue.

Day 18. Daily 20 meter radio schedules and Oleg's detailed medical Telex reports continue. Independent breathing 3-6 hours daily. Oleg is coming out of coma.

Day 19. Dr. Markov says Oleg has a cough reflex. Cefoxiten and endotracheal tubes have arrived in Ryazan. Dr. Starke tells Dr. Markov, "When you sit Oleg up in bed, slap him on the back, and get him to cough. If he can cough and breathe, 'wean' him from the respirator. If he is weak, force him to move and to be active. Exercise all muscles. Otherwise, he will get weaker."

Oleg Has Visitors

Day 20. A member of the radio club delivers the feeding solution from the Moscow Airport. Oleg's mother and twin brother visit him for the first time. Oleg answers Alex's simple questions by squeezing "yes" with his left hand. The right hand is paralyzed. The right eye does not open. Independent breathing 8-10 hours per day.
    On 20 meters, Dr. Izzo says, "Oleg's responses are good news. We are not happy about his right-side paralysis. Be patient. There is a long road ahead. Continue to stimulate him in every way."

Day 21. Oleg progresses in breathing, coughing, eye opening, and left extremity movement. Coughing is difficult, due to oro-tracheal tube in mouth. When he sees his mother, Olga Murugova, in the morning, he trembles and tries to lift his head. She spends more time with him each day. Things are going well. Oleg's daily Telex says, "Thanks God we met so kind friends from USA."

Day 22. Oleg seems to recognize his relatives. He localizes pain and carries out simple commands with great delay. He is quick to tire. He reacts to intubation. Today a tracheostomy is performed in the neck, to allow breath at that point. Slight signs of pneumonia remain, but general signs of infection diminish. A lumbar puncture is done to determine fluid pressure.
    Dr. Izzo makes recommendations. "Your doctors are doing an outstanding job. It appears that Oleg is improving! Considering the severity of the trauma, all responses are as expected. Consider discontinuing the endotracheal tube and antibiotics. A lumber puncture is dangerous in the presence of elevated intra-cranial pressure. In view of Oleg's neurological improvement, we advise continued patience and not performing another lumber puncture."

Breathing More Easily

Day 23. Oleg begins to move his right extremities. He relates to his relatives and familiar music. His movement is improving. He squeezes the doctor's hand. He has his first full day of independent breathing. Dr. Izzo implores, "Stimulate Oleg. Get him out of bed as much as possible. He will be tired. That's okay."

Day 24. Oleg carries out commands to move limbs, pick up his head, move from side to side. Dr. Izzo suggests getting him to walk with help from two or three people.

Day 27. Twenty meter schedules are less frequent, and mostly between UZ4FWO and W6HJK now. Improvement is slow and steady. Oleg has a more sensible look. He tries to help the nurse who changes his bed, but tires easily. Antibiotics are discontinued. Intravenous feeding is minimal, with increased tube feeding. Four tubes remain: the nasal feeding tube, tracheostomy tube, sub-clavicle venous catheter, urethral catheter. Dr. Markov and the new treating doctor, Yurij Dragunkin say, "Now, thanks to your assistance, the Soviet doctors are in the firm belief that they will save Oleg's life." They say the music plays an important role in Oleg's improvement. With help from Robert Bruce, DJ0CX, they receive additional feeding solution from Europe.
    Dr. Izzo says that any tubes in the body, especially IV and urethral, are foreign bodies and increase chances of infection. Consider removing them. If he tolerates 2500 cc. of solution, consider removing the subclavicle IV tube and all IV medications. Remove the urethral catheter. Use a diaper and encourage him to use the urinal. Offer him sips of water by mouth, depending on his swallowing ability and cough reflex. Use frequent conversation. Put every limb and joint through their full range of motions frequently every day.

Day 28. Oleg responds to music, especially calm, modern, Russian music, and jazz. He has a bad response to classical music. He still cannot speak or walk. Nose feeding increases, while IV feeding decreases. The urethral catheter is removed. He sits up in bed for 10 minutes. Then he gets very tired and his skin color changes. He gets 1,000 calories from the nasal feeding, plus more from broth.
    Dr. Izzo says his recovery is average, perhaps a little faster than average. Brain function recovery is usually a slow process. The largest part of the recovery occurs in the first 2-3 months. Full recovery could take a year. "Feed Oleg 2000 cc. per day, then remove the IV tube. Oleg's mother shows him N2KW's QSL postcard and says, "Do you know what it is? It is your American friend, Allen Singer. Please read what he writes to you." Oleg's eyes follow the lines of the writing. Those present say Oleg is reading. They are very surprised.

"Shake Him!"

Day 29. Oleg nods his head "yes" and "no". Dr. Izzo reiterates, "If Oleg's blood pressure stays normal, it is fine if he gets tired or pale while sitting up. Push him! Even shake him to keep him awake! And get to 2,000-2,500 calories as soon as possible. He needs it, because he is in negative nitrogen balance."

Day 31. Oleg can cough and swallow water from a spoon. He listens to music and sleeps most of the time. Oleg's mother and brother read books to him. They write him questions, which he reads and answers by shaking his head. He sits up in bed but weakens quickly.

Day 35. Music is now played for patients in all departments of the hospital! The doctors are very responsive to this idea. Oleg turns from side to side in bed. Right side movement is better, particularly his right leg. He squeezes a rubber ball 5 times with his left hand, but not with his right hand. IV feeding has stopped! All feeding is by tube, with feeding solution and broth made by Oleg's mother. Oleg has developed bedsores.
    Dr. Izzo, on the air, again implores doctors to get Oleg out of bed, exercise him, and increase his calories. His mother can grind up meat and potatoes, then add broth to get the food down the tube. He advises about bedsores and the broken clavicle.

An Audiotape for Oleg

Day 38. Igor at UZ4FWO in Penza is very pleased. He makes an audiotape of our shortwave QSO to send to Oleg. Oleg understands everything spoken to him. He can read from a book. He begins to pronounce a few words, even sentences. He teaches himself to plug his own neck tracheal hole to facilitate his speech. He speaks mostly profanity, because of the pain from his bedsores at the base of his back. In Penza, they are making a special chair so he can sit comfortably. Oleg also can chew. He eats half a plum. Then apricots and tomatos. He now squeezes the ball with his left hand 7 times. They ask, "Should we give him beer?"

Day 39. Dr. Izzo gets on the microphone. "It's good that he can chew. Now feed him high-calorie food by mouth -- meat, potatoes, with his mother's broth. When he can eat without choking, remove the nasal tube. The next day, plug the tracheal tube. Deflate the balloon then, after 24 hours, remove the tracheal tube. Cover the opening with a light bandage during healing. No sutures. No alcohol consumption. It is not good for brain function."

Day 40. From Penza, Alex and Vlad, UA4FDS, visit Oleg. They take him out of bed and help him stand up briefly. After that, the doctors begin to do it.

Day 42. Oleg is swallowing better and beginning to eat by mouth. Nasal tube feeding is still used. He now has both otitis media and bedsores. They take him out of bed 3 times, 1 minute each time. He stands mostly on his left leg.

Day 43. Dr. Izzo says relatives, friends, and hospital workers need to work harder and more often with Oleg.

Day 45. The bedsores are a little better. He sits up for 2 minutes, several times a day, then becomes weak, stops talking, and closes his eyes. They help him stand several times a day, for 30-40 seconds, now on both legs.

Stronger and Larger Small Steps

Day 52. Igor is home from visiting Oleg in the Ryazan Hospital. He is happy to have met everyone there. Oleg grows stronger, day by day, by small steps. Igor is surprised by the three big bedsores, and Oleg's weakness. He is eating mostly through a feeding tube and some by mouth. Oleg understands everything said to him. When the tracheal tube is removed, he'll speak better.
    Igor told him about all the people in the world involved in his recovery. He showed Oleg the May, 1990 Radio, the popular Soviet communication journal, which printed W6HJK's QSL card: "This is your new brother. He lives in America. He did a lot to help in your recovery." Oleg looked at the article and his eyes moved from word to word.
    Igor hears by phone that, yesterday, day 51, after Igor's visit, the doctors removed Oleg's naso-gastric tube. With a spoon, he now eats ordinary food -- porridge, broth, potatoes, biscuits. He goes to the toilet by himself! He walks to the water closet, about 9 meters from his bed.

Day 60. Ed Kritsky, NT2X, relays that Oleg is doing better. The tracheal tube is out and the hole in his neck is healing. He eats by mouth only. His mother and wife, Elena, are cooking high-calorie food for him. Bedsores are healing. His activity increases and he sits himself up every 5 minutes. Every day he walks 20 meters along the hospital corridor, at least 2 times a day, almost without help. He maintains conversations and recognizes relatives, although there is some loss of memory. He frequently forgets events of a prior day, but may remember five-day-old events. He does not remember the accident and what immediately preceded it.


Day 67. Two setbacks. Right side pneumonia and fever return to Oleg. The antibiotic Kefzol is injected. At the same time, Dr. Joseph Izzo himself is taken to an operating room for emergency surgery for his carotid artery stenosis. He is resting and recovering in the hospital in California.

Day 69. On the air, Igor says that Oleg walks to the balcony for fresh air, 20 meters away, 3 times a day, with help from one person. He has a good appetite and eats normally, "like other men", says Igor. "His voice is easy to understand now. He can take part in any conversation."

Day 70. Doctors cannot diagnose if Oleg's fever is from pneumonia, bedsores, or infection caused by food in the trachea or lungs, after feeding tube removal. Dr. Izzo, just home from the hospital, insists on returning a phone call. He recommends continuation of Oleg's antibiotic for ten days.

Day 73. On the 20 meter schedule, Igor is pleased. X-rays reveal no pneumonia now. In very good spirits, Oleg independently sits up in bed and in a chair. The right arm and leg are slowly improving. His mind is good. He understands everything around him. He remembers his life well, but not the past few months nor some events from the past year. He needs time to gain a little more strength, then hopes to find a helicopter to take him 400 km. from Ryazan home to Penza.

Home at Last

Day 80. A big surprise! Igor says, "I have great news! Oleg is home! Yesterday (DAY 79) Oleg unexpectedly arrived home by train. Everyone met him at the railroad station and shook his hand. He walked with assistance 200 meters to the car. There was a great party in his home."
    When two friends from Penza were visiting Oleg in the Ryazan hospital, it was suddenly decided that he had recovered enough to return home. He is much stronger and can shake hands, although the right side is still partially paralyzed. Oleg walks with the help of one person and feeds himself with his left hand. He eats so slowly that his mother or wife, Helen, often help him.
    Oleg understands he must eat properly and exercise to regain his strength. He does gymnastics daily. Yesterday (day 79) Igor gave Oleg a pen and he began to write for the first time.

Day 98. Oleg recovers more every day, by small steps. He moves his right hand and leg better every day. He walks independently from the 4th floor of the hospital to the ground floor and garden, with a little help from his brother, but almost without assistance. His voice is still weak, but he can converse perfectly. Oleg will stay in the Penza hospital one month. He will then go home ... to live.

The Next Year

December, 1991. Eighteen months post trauma, photos arrive from Penza. Oleg has a broad smile and bright eyes. He is once again operating the club station and repairing electronic equipment. He can write, paint, and take long walks in the forest. Igor says, "Oleg is quite well..not exactly the same man as before accident..some awkward movements, but he walks independently, makes a lot of jobs..some headaches but all okay with his consciousness. Igor ends, "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year my dear friends."


"If you take a midnight train, hurrying
to help a friend in January snow --
you were moved by a voice of conscience.
Therefore, you are still -- a human being."

    From Rudolf Harchenko's poem "Understanding"
    Golos Rodiny, Moscow, March 1988

    Such a human being is Igor Korolkov, UA4FER, the ham behind the short wave medical effort that helped save the life of Oleg Murugov, UA4FAY. This is the man who rushed through the night to the side of his critically injured friend. From UZ4FWO, he faithfully engineered short wave, telephone, Telex, and mail connections, to allow life- saving medical information to flow.
    Day after day, week after week, with Russian-English dictionaries at his side, he passed with precision the medical phrases and measurements so critical to the life- saving decisions and actions that brought Oleg back from the abyss. He built bridges of understanding between people unknown to each other, even untrusting, and unable to speak the other's language.

    On Day 73 of Oleg's recovery, on 14,245 MHz, Igor took time to reflect with Len, W6HJK, on the experience.
    "When I heard about this accident, I couldn't believe it. The spirit in the club was very bad. We had lost RA4FB, our friend! It was too hard. When it became clear that Oleg might live, the spirit and feelings became better and better in the club. We looked to the future with great hope.
    "The people in Penza asked me, 'Why do they help us? Who are they?' At first, even the doctors asked, 'Why do they help? What do they want?'
    "I told them, 'They are people like us. They share our humanity.' It is difficult for them to believe in real human relations. I'm sure this story will open people's eyes, in Ryazan and Penza.
    "It is difficult for Soviets to believe that you want peace as they do. It is difficult to explain to old people about new relations. But a lot of people, especially young people, are beginning to look with new eyes on new international relations. They will one day understand they need no armies for peace, only human relations -- like ours.
    "This story opened our eyes. I can't believe our relations were once so poor. After this event, it is a new page, a new step in human relations for me. You are very good, very talented, and very kind people who want to live in friendship. We are the same as you.
    "You know," said Igor, concluding the reflective QSO, "when you talk about it, tears go to my eyes."

    Igor Korolkov, at the time of Oleg's crisis (1990), was thirty and single. He had graduated Penza's Polytechnic Institute and was a trainer-teacher of Radiosport in the Children's Sports School. In the summer, he jogged and played soccer. He played indoor basketball and skied in the winter. He said, in Penza, "it is beautiful when the trees and antennas are covered with snow."
    Soon after Oleg's recovery, Igor married. He and Elena. have a four month old daughter, Marina.


"In this interconnected, interrelated living system,
dependent on diversity, all life has value.
The next step in evolution is for the human species to
become as loving as the system that produced it."

    "Redefining Our Relationship to the Earth"
    Beyond War Conference, Endicott College, Beverly, Mass., July 1990

    Amateur* radio was the scene of a spontaneous linking of Soviets and Americans in a sustained, devoted effort to save the life of one critically injured Soviet citizen, Oleg Murugov, UA4FAY. It was concrete evidence of the evolution of our international relationship, returning from the abyss of mistrust and alienation, during which time life itself was at risk. The American participants have reflected about their months of working together.
    "The success of glasnost has spread to the airwaves," confirmed Dr. Charles Starke, NX2T. Lawrence Probes, MD, ND8S, expands, "I think the greatest significance of this effort was the ability to bring amateur health and welfare and disaster communications in the Soviet Union into the mainstream of ham radio." Allen Singer, N2KW, adds that ham radio "is not just a hobby, but a service."
    Angel Garcia, WA2VUY, said it simply. "We are just a few American hams doing what we can." But Soviet physicians didn't think so. Ed Kritsky, NT2X, recalled the beginning when "at first Soviet doctors were reluctant to accept help. But as time went by they mellowed out. They realized the people in the United States truly wanted to give assistance. They knew we were there to help. They knew we cared."
    Dr. Probes believes "Soviet hams will now feel more free and confident to express their needs for help and to graciously receive assistance from the international ham community. Likewise, they will be more free to extend helping hands to other countries."
    He talked about his unique contribution. "Actually, my job as a relay station and translator meant long periods of time sitting and monitoring carefully while others communicated. It was during those periods that I really discovered the important contributions of those hams who monitor regularly and remain poised on frequency, ready to intercede when called upon."
    Florence and Rolf Beier, San Mateo, received and relayed the first urgent FAX and electronic mail messages. Recalled Florence, "I use technology in my profession all the time, but nothing was ever this satisfying." Rolf remembered, "I got quite emotional when I learned he was out of the woods. It gave me faith in modern science and technology, seeing how beneficial they can really be."
    Dr. Joseph Izzo, the California neurosurgeon, was always "on call" for the stricken Russian. Unavailable only a few days, even during his own hospitalization for emergency vascular surgery, he remembers, "I was really flying by the seat of my pants to get information from the Soviet doctors so that I could diagnose. Now I feel a kind of bond with someone I don't even know. It makes you feel good inside -- hands across the water -- that type of thing."
    After giving all the advice, and shipping medicine and supplies, says Charles Starke, MD, NX2T, "It's really gratifying. So often, head trauma doesn't respond, especially if there is a lot of damage. It's a real joy to help a brother ham." Singer agrees, recalling the query by the New York Times interviewer, "You mean you don't know him?" "We have never met," Singer replied, "but it is as if we are brothers. We are the same." About the words of thanks and he got from Igor on the air, he later revealed, "It moved me to silent tears."
    Concluded Dr. Izzo, himself not a ham, "No one did it for notoriety. There was just someone in trouble and we all jumped in to help, and it seems to be working out well, which is really the nice part. You have to know the personalities of hams -- they're just there to help." To love.

*amateur (from the Latin amare, to love)

(See 56 PHOTOS)

A short form of this story -- Saving Oleg -- appears in
CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: Stories For A Better World (2005)

(The whole, inspiring book can also be purchased.)

This story was first presented in narrative and slides for the New York Academy of Sciences conference, "Extended Clinical Consulting by Hospital Computer Networks," March 22-25, 1992, at the Marriott Hotel/Copley Place, Boston, Mass.
The story as reported in the New York Times, Sunday, June 24, 1990.

Lionel Traubman, DDS, MSD
Dentistry for Infants and Children (retired August, 2000)

1448 Cedarwood Drive, San Mateo, CA 94403
Voice: (650) 574-8303 -- Fax: (650) 573-1217
Web: http://traubman.igc.org/

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