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On the never-to-be-forgotten date September 11th, 2001, I was in Moscow, Russia, watching the twin towers go down on CNN. I continued my tri-country tour with all airports closed, including Ukraine and Germany. In Kyiv, the horror of what happened did not sink in until I stood in front of the vast Ukrainian audience of dermatologists and cosmetologs, as they are called. I burst into tears, and they all leaped to their feet with a resounding round of applause in support of the United States.,
The evening before, nestled in the Dnipro Hotel, the convention organizer, Sophia Rogal, called me to announce that many speakers from the United States and Europe had canceled flights and asked if I could replace them. A few local skin practitioners and I then ran the conference. I had to come up with five different lecture subjects appropriate to the original speakers’ formats and was on my feet for hours with an increasingly hoarse voice. The only other time this had happened was my first trip to China, when a group of native wellness practitioners would not let me get off the stage for three hours running. Needless to say, the DMK Booth in Kyiv was packed non-stop the entire day.
This was the beginning of a long, familial relationship fraught with heartache and triumph. Dr. Andrey Sotnik was 23 years old, just out of medical school and into cosmetic surgery and other medical aesthetic practices, when he started working with us. His parents had a trauma center in Donetsk where they conducted many clinical tests on scar revision and other bad skin anomalies that gave us stunning before and after results that I had never dreamed possible in my 40-year career in skin revision.
I was taken aback by how different their processes were. They were not interested in trendy ingredients, machines, or miracle breakthroughs prevalent in western marketing. After a time, I became aware that I had to be very upfront with them on everything I taught. They respected proper diagnostics, protocol, and home prescriptions, resulting in desirable results. When I expressed shock and surprise at their achievements based upon our concepts (products only being tools to achieve the results and not the main “show”), they were a little taken back, stating, “Nothing remarkable here; you gave us the protocol, the tools, and the concept. We just did the work.” This dedication and humility prompted me to always be truthful with them. If I did not know something when asked, I’d admit it, but I would try like hell to come up with a solution later!
This also led to my conclusion that rosacea was started by the presence of the microscopic demodex mite, bacterial and viral aspects appearing as another group of invaders coming to the party the parasites started.
We had inadvertently been “melting” the mites with our alkaline treatments for years and then built skin health back up, shrinking and strengthening the damaged capillaries without knowing why such aggressive treatments got such good results.
It was young Dr. Andrey Sotnik who asked me one afternoon, “Danné, what is a protocol for demodex? It is very common in Ukraine.”
I had never heard of demodex. After days of researching all kinds of dermatological textbooks, including a veterinarian tome, I finally came across demodex folliculitis, an animal to human parasite crossover and realized why we were getting such great rosacea results for years.
Dr. Sotnik went on to marry a childhood sweetheart, Dr. Yulia Borzykh, and the entire medical family continued to build their distribution and training – giving us even more case histories that were medically backed and used the proper equipment necessary to measure tangible results – something that would cost cosmetic companies here a fortune! In return, we supported them 100% with everything we had, including going on many lecture tours in Ukraine with my nephew, Drew Coleman and partner, Randy Larsen. The most difficult time during all of this was the Crimea attack. Eight years ago, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at a dermatological conference in Kyiv.
My European schedule was already overloaded, so I expressed energy deficits, claiming I would be so tired that I would be less than charismatic or influential when I arrived in Kyiv. I received a panicked call from Dr. Sotnik announcing that the Crimea section of Ukraine was under attack; they had to flee Donetsk and come to Kyiv. So many dermatologists thought about canceling on the conference, not knowing what the economic situation for the rest of Ukraine would be. I was told that advertising my personal appearance at the conference would offer credibility and get people to attend. So, I came.
The streets of Kyiv were full of soldiers. Guards were all over the hotel lobby. I went upstairs to my suite to unpack, looked out over the beautiful city of Kyiv, and nearly had a nervous breakdown!
The enormity of why I was there crushed down on me like a massive weight. I was not there to sell products. I was there as a figure of hope from the West, assuring all attendees that everything would be okay. The Ukrainian people are homogenous team players; people with heart who, under adverse circumstances, carry on with life as usual, working and helping one another as if everything were as it should be. They are still doing it today.
Dr. Andrey Sotnik was assassinated in the streets of Kyiva few weeks later – gunned down while bringing his little son Leo a bag of pastries after work one night. We flew in the dead of winter for the funeral. The family asked me to officiate and do the eulogy.
As I stood there in subzero weather in that vast orthodox cathedral, gazing down at the body of my young protégé', my go-to Dermatologist whenever I needed real medical backup, my surrogate son, and my friend, I gazed out over the large crowd of friends and family waiting to hear what I had to say – I was overwhelmed and weighted down with lack of words to express the surreal events.
Due to the political winds and struggles, I cannot say anything more about this terrible event. But I can say that I begged Yulia, for the sake of their son, to overcome her grief as well as she could and become a superwoman for her company and the colleagues that depended on it. She did just that.
Several days after the current attack on Ukraine, she sponsored and performed in a webinar for her accounts in Poland and the Czech Republic from her basement in Kyiv. Believe it or not, I recently heard some dermatologists are still doing skin revision treatments in areas that are not yet militarized.
I had only personally seen this one time before. Years ago, when Northern Ireland was in conflict, soldiers were creeping around the Belfast streets with carbines raised. Small tanks would greet us in the morning on our way to the Roberta Mecham Clinic on Lisbon Road.
We had around eight clients on treatment beads undergoing enzyme treatments when a Marshall appeared yelling, “Clear these premises! There is a bomb scheduled to go off in an hour up the street!
The Irish therapists calmly pushed all the trolleys (It was then I noted they all had wheels.) out the back and into a pub yard down the alley. They calmly finished the treatments, the bomb did not blow, and when the all-clear sounded, the clients all got up, paid their bills, and left as if it were a typical day! The epitome of the old saying: “Do what you have to do!”
Whatever the outcome of this war is, by the time this is published, I am compelled to honor with all humility a people that express genuine commitment and passion to our industry – really changing people’s lives as their own lives change dramatically around them.