In 1988, Coach Bill Endicott was coaching the U.S. Olympic white water canoeing and kayaking team and led a kayaking exchange to the then-Soviet Union. After meeting Ukrainian and Russian athletes and coaches in the Soviet Union, Bill kept in touch with them over the years. That same year, Mike Corcoran arrived to train with Bill while preparing to represent Ireland in canoeing for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
The two would go their separate ways after the ’92 Olympics. Little did they know that years later, they would join forces to make a difference once again on an international level.
Mike went on to become a prosthetist, while Bill went to work at the White House under President Bill Clinton after having worked for the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 2002, Mike co-founded the Medical Center Orthotics and Prosthetics (MCOP). Since 2005, MCOP has been the exclusive provider of lower-extremity prosthetics for the nation’s wounded warriors.
“During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, MCOP had the exclusive DoD/Walter Reed contract to care for 1,100 US soldier amputees, thus learning more about blast injuries than just about anyone in the world,” says Bill.
Bill, with experience in the Russian language and his contact with athletes in Ukraine and Russia, watched the invasion of Ukraine with great concern. He had been speaking with athletes from both Russia and Ukraine up until recently, when all contact from the Russian athletes stopped. From his words with Ukrainian athletes, he knew the situation was dire. As injuries due to blasts and explosions became more apparent with each passing day, he reached out to his old friend and now-neighbor, Mike, on April 19, 2022, a day he remembers vividly.
“I emailed Mike asking him if he wanted to do something to help Ukrainian soldiers. He immediately said ‘yes’ because he believes, as I do, that on top of fighting for their freedom and independence, Ukraine is fighting civilization’s battle of democracy versus autocracy and we need to help them,” said Bill.
Out of that email exchange, Operation Renew Prosthetics (ORP) was formed. Today, the organization has seven partners that help coordinate soldiers coming into the program to be fitted with prosthetics and receive therapy and learn to use their new limbs.
So far, ORP has helped 39 soldiers receive new limbs through locations in Silver Spring, Maryland, Boston, and Malta. There are another 10 lined up to receive care by the ORP team, with many more expected to follow.
In April 2023, Mike and Bill visited Lviv and Kyiv. Because of that trip, MCOP has since partnered with the Superhumans organization in Lviv to care for soldiers there, as well as train prosthetists from Superhumans in state-of-the-art techniques.
It is estimated that as of now, there are more than 20,000 amputees due to injuries from the war in Ukraine. One of the things that ORP is challenged with is the antiquated medical system left over from Soviet Union days.
“The only way for Ukraine to become proficient and up-to-date in this kind of medical care is for them to have their own care center in Kyiv. Ukraine could then very likely become a world leader on blast injuries,” says Bill.
Opening a medical center would not only benefit injured Ukrainian soldiers, but it would create jobs in the region as the plan is to train and hire locals. The plans for the medical center are well underway, with financing the current hurdle, but there is much enthusiasm and optimism that things will become a reality soon.
“I’m very confident we will build a center in Kyiv and that we’ll be successful there. We have people very committed to making it a reality,” says Mike.
The majority of the treated soldiers are eager to get back to fighting for their country. While many are not able to go back to their same roles, they are determined to play a part in a fight for Ukraine’s freedom and democracy.
“The entire country is so incredibly resolute. There are no heroes because the entire country is all so heroic,” says Bill. “My team went to the Olympics and won gold and bronze medals but helping the Ukrainian people and helping amputees create a new life for themselves is even more inspiring and gratifying.”
ORP has several upcoming missions planned, along with raising funding and working to get the medical center built and running. For ORP’s efforts, Mike was presented Ukraine’s Order of Merit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on September 21, 2023.
“If we can help in some small way, that gives me great satisfaction. We’re doing what should be done, and what needs to be done … we’re going to continue doing this until we’re not needed anymore,” says Mike.
AMSG, along with Ryde Technologies and Summit Technologies, was pleased to sponsor an in-person comedy night benefitting Operation Renew Prosthetics and the ProEnglish Theatre in Kyiv in June. For more information about ORP, visit their website.
By: Sheila Rupp, AMSGazette Contributor and Editor