Dr. Paul Runge, a board-certified ophthalmologist and pediatrician, has had a long and rewarding career evaluating and treating premature infants for a potentially blinding eye condition known as retinopathy of prematurity (An eye disease that can happen in babies who are born prematurely and generally weigh less than 3 pounds at birth). His career has included work in a private retinal practice for over twenty years and teaching resident physicians at the University of South Florida, Tampa - where he received six annual teaching awards and a lifetime achievement teaching award. He has also looked after premature infants at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where no baby under his care became blind.
As retirement approached, he realized he wasn’t ready to stop contributing his medical talent to those in need. He found his opportunity to do more during the Ukrainian conflict which began on February 24, 2022. Dr. Runge said, “I just felt driven to help.” He contacted many colleagues, until he finally managed to get connected to five physicians in Ivano-Frankivsk, a large city in the west of Ukraine in July. On his first visit to Ivano-Frankivsk, Dr. Runge was able to work two weeks at the children’s hospital neonatal intensive care unit and at the city general hospital. During that trip, he discovered the lack of the special needles he felt were essential to perform eye procedures more safely.
Below is a photo of his first trip working with physicians in Ivano-Frankivsk.
After returning from Ukraine, Dr. Runge reached out to Air-Tite and requested some of our 32g TSK STERiJECT™ needles, as well as B. Braun 2-Part Luer Slip syringes and EXEL Luer Lock syringes for his next trip back. He said, “The TSK needles are exactly what the ophthalmologists require for injecting the eyes of both infants and adults.” He informed us about his mission, and we donated several boxes of the TSK STERiJECT™ 32g x 4mm, 6mm, and 9mm needles towards the cause. After putting them to good use, Dr. Runge informed us that, “The TSK needles and syringes were a big hit.” He has made several return trips to Ukraine, most recently mid-October to mid-November, where the 4mm needles had been used to treat premature infants with retinopathy of prematurity at the children’s hospital in Ivano-Frankivsk. The longer 6mm and 9mm needles were used in the general eye clinic on adults. Dr. Runge offered some of those needles to the military hospital as well to use on soldiers.
Pictured above is Dr. Runge with Dr. Tetyana, a Ukrainian pediatric ophthalmologist, examining the eyes of an extremely premature infant in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Ivano-Frankivsk children’s hospital. Dr. Runge is attempting to introduce the injection of medicines into the eyes of premature babies at this hospital to help prevent blindness. “This has never been done here before. Everywhere else in the world these injections are the standard of care. The 4mm 32G TSK needles are critical for this procedure, and I would not feel safe using any other needle for this procedure.” -Dr. Runge
Above are photos from the Children’s Hospital in Ivano-Frankivsk. The first photo is Dr. Tetyana (pediatric ophthalmologist) holding the TSK STERiJECT™ needles, and the second photo is a patient with her mother.
On his third trip, he gave us insight into some of the daily activities and struggles he faced while there:
“I arrived back in the Ukraine on Sunday to find that things were quite different than when I left the end of September. Now, every day there are air raid sirens usually in the morning and we immediately go into a bomb shelter in the basement of the building next door. There we wait until we get the all-clear and are then free to go about our daily activities. On Tuesday we remained in the bunker for about two hours, and halfway through our stay the crowd of mainly young ladies started singing the Ukrainian national anthem. We all stood hand-on-heart. It was quite remarkable. After completing the anthem, they went on to sing many other Ukrainian folk songs. I guess it helped people feel less anxious and deal with the boredom. Sitting and waiting endlessly is not much fun, and the wooden plank bleachers are not very comfortable. I appreciate every day my comfortable life in Florida. When the sirens go off while we are at work at the hospital, we head to a basement bomb shelter as well… This is very unsettling and very disruptive because we end up spending a great deal of time in shelters.
Many thanks to you and (Air-Tite Products) for your support, supplies and kind thoughts and prayers.”
Although, Dr. Runge has enjoyed helping adult patients in the general eye clinic, his passion has always been working with premature babies. “The potential for saving sight and giving the gift of lifelong vision is so much greater in babies than adults. This work is therefore the most rewarding and important thing I can ever do.” So, when the number of patients at the general clinic he was helping was greatly diminished in part related to the increased activities, he will “Now have more time to concentrate on the nursery and the babies. In the end, I will be happier with my newfound emphasis and direction. The children’s hospital remains open, business as usual, babies continue to arrive, so there is still plenty of work to do.”
His latest letter to us stated he was very excited to head back home to celebrate his wife’s birthday and spend time with his daughters and grandson. “But, I will be back [in Ukraine] to help with the babies. I also have a few more supplies to bring back to the Ukraine.” Air-Tite Products would like to thank Dr. Runge for being a great humanitarian and helping those who are most vulnerable.