A VETERAN is rallying round the North East for medical supplies before travelling to Ukraine and delivering them to a field hospital.

Rob Tocher, from Ferryhill, has launched an appeal for the donations to help people on the frontline and at the makeshift hospitals in the war-ravaged country.

The 50-year-old previously served in the British Army in the 1990 during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and says his battlefield experience has inspired his relief effort today.

Mr Tocher suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after his time in the armed forces but felt he had to help out after watching the tragedy unfold from his living room.

He’s currently in the process of recruiting specialist volunteers with the appropriate expertise to help with delivering the medical supplies in Ukraine, volunteering on behalf of the Red Cross. Companies from around the North East are also on hand to help with the organisational and logistical aspects of the donation effort.

The Northern Echo: Rob Tocher, from Ferryhill, with his PTSD assistance dog. Picture: HandoutRob Tocher, from Ferryhill, with his PTSD assistance dog. Picture: Handout

“Last Saturday I was sat down having dinner with my family and we had the news on, and suddenly I just dropped my knife and fork and said, ‘we need boots on the ground’,” Mr Tocher told The Northern Echo.

“I can’t deploy myself and fight, so I thought I’d better do something else. What’s needed is frontline medical assistance. Stabilising the casualties by initially helping them out with supplies before sending them off to hospital.”

Read more: This County Durham business man is travelling to Ukraine to help the war torn country

Mr Tocher’s initial ambition was that Saturday would later come to define his day-to-day life.

He added: “I made a pledge to myself that I want to personally take the medical kit I get into Ukraine. I will deliver it whether its one mile or a thousand miles in the country. It’s going to the safest frontline hospital we can get to.”

The self-professed “one-man band” has been overwhelmed with the work in organising the trip but is equally as thankful for people’s generosity and support behind his mission.

The Northern Echo: More than a million people have fled Ukraine. Picture: PAMore than a million people have fled Ukraine. Picture: PA

The father-of-three’s Ferryhill home has been taken over by donations, meaning his family have had to sacrifice using the dining room, kitchen, and hallways over storing donated items. Thanking everyone who has helped him so far, he said: “What’s been donated, it is unavailable how people have gone out of their way and purchased it. I can’t thank the people enough.”

“We are making slow progress with contacts in Ukraine but we’re getting conflicting stories of people who have travelled to Poland regarding customs,” he said. “Going into a battlefield is totally different than what happens on the TV and I want to make sure everyone stays safe.”

Read more: Darlington residents donate thousands of items for Ukraine

Mr Tocher has set an initial donation deadline of March 14 but sees the appeal continuing for several months. Online JustGiving and crowdfunding pages have been launched to pay for vehicle and travel costs.

A vehicle to transport the medical supplies to Ukraine is still required, and Mr Tocher is appealing to anyone with suitable vehicles to help.

Entering Ukraine amid life-threatening circumstances doesn’t faze Mr Tocher, who is determined to realise his initial pledge, however. “By going back into a hostile environment it may help my PTSD in some way - I think it’s doing me the world of good,” he said.

“Come hell or high water I will deliver medical supplies to a field hospital in Ukraine, and I will bounce through all the hoops required to do it.”

The two online fundraisers can be found here. Crowdfunder and JustGiving

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