HALFMOON, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A local company answered New York State’s call to help during the pandemic, but now the life-saving equipment they made is heading to the frontlines of a different battle: the war in Ukraine. NEWS10 ABC’s Lydia Kulbida takes us to Halfmoon for the start of this journey.

Precision Valve and Automation (PVA) employs 250 people in its high-tech facility in Halfmoon, quite the leap from starting in CEO Tony Hynes’ basement 30 years ago. As Hynes showed NEWS10 around, he explained what PVA does. “We build production equipment, which goes all over the world, which then goes into making all the stuff that we like to buy: our cars, our medical devices, our consumer products. Our area of expertise is robotics and the application of liquid materials, which is putting down in an automated fashion adhesives, sealants and coatings or a very fancy way of saying we use robots to glue things together.”

PVA CEO Tony Hynes and his company’s portable ventilator
PVA CEO Tony Hynes and his company’s portable ventilator

“Any industrialized country has our machines,” Hynes continued as he walked from the research lab to the manufacturing floor, “they are deployed all over the world, they are working 24 hours a day. We like to say the sun never sets on the PVA empire.”

Then the pandemic cast its shadow. PVA was deemed an essential business and stayed open, except instead of sealing circuit boards, they looked to save lives.

“We took a look at the list that the state put out of products that they needed,” said Hynes, “went down the list and figured you know what, we could take a really good crack at making an inexpensive lightweight portable ventilator. So, within a six-week period, we designed it, manufactured it, and got FDA approval to deploy it which to my knowledge we are the only company to ever get approval for a medical device that wasn’t a medical company from the FDA.” “Wow” responded Lydia. “Yeah, it was quite a feat,” Hynes said.

Dozens of these ventilators were sent around the state and the world, but when the large-scale need for ventilators never materialized, Tony was left with dozens more, “When the covid emergency is lifted, the emergency approval goes away we can no longer do anything with them and we would have had to destroy them, which would’ve just broke my heart.”

Heartbreak was averted with the help of Brock Bierman, CEO and President of the non-profit Ukraine Focus.

“We work with if you will, the federal level, the state level, and a local level,” Bierman explained. “We cooperate with all three to make sure we’re working in collaboration, cooperation and communication so that we’re making sure we have a strategy in place that puts the assets in place exactly where they’re needed at the exact time they’re needed.”

He’ll deliver the ventilators and other donated supplies including ambulances to Ukraine. He is getting ready for his 12th trip since Russia’s February 2022 invasion.

“You weren’t kidding when you said ambulance,” PVA CEO Tony Hynes said as his employees helped Bierman load up an ambulance already filled with 200 police vests donated by the Syracuse PD. “I thought that was the term for the vehicle you were driving but it actually is an ambulance.”

New York State DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos has taken personal leave twice over the past year to help Brock deliver aid. Their most recent trip was to two orphanages.

Photo provided by NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos of sandbags and strollers at an orphanage in Ukraine
Photo provided by NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos of sandbags and strollers at an orphanage in Ukraine.

“For me, just the orphanages really stuck out as something that was extraordinarily dire,” Seggos recalled. “You had these babies in cribs dozens of them, sometimes one crib after the next. It was largely Ukrainian women who had given up their lives to keep these kids alive and that showed me how a different part of the county pulled together to keep people alive and keep their country intact.”

Seggos and Bierman bought supplies needed at the orphanages. They provided everything from stoves to clothing to food, before delivering the donated ambulances close to the front lines.

“On an otherwise very gray day the sun came out at that very moment,” Seggos shared as he pointed to a group picture where they held the Ukrainian flag. Lydia asked, “And how close were you to the front line there?” He replied, “Probably 2 kilometers. That was a very active location, Bakhmut just about 5 kilometers north.”

These ventilators may get even closer.

“Because of the size and because they’re lightweight it fits in an ambulance very well,” Hynes pointed out. “It can fit into a helicopter, or it can fit into an infantry vehicle very, very easily, it’s a nice device for battlefield use. It works every bit as well as and can keep somebody every bit as alive as a $30,000 ventilator.” Lydia noted, “Except instead of fighting the war on Covid it’s fighting a different …” “A different battle,” Tony said finishing her thought.

Different battles, but the same purpose, saving lives. That had driven the work at PVA from the start.

“That would boost the spirits of a lot of people here to know they were delivered,” Tony said hopefully, “that they were going to be used and we’re a part of that.”

And they in turn are boosting spirits half a world away.

damaged school in Ukraine
Photo provided by NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos of a damaged school in Ukraine

“I can’t even begin to tell you how positive they are viewing our support and how much they need it,” Bierman said. “You really can’t get an understanding of the amount of destruction that goes on until you’re standing in the middle of a village that has been completely destroyed and people’s lives are sitting on the ground in pieces. Toys, china and pictures, there’s a foundation where a house used to be and families used to come together and now there’s literally nothing. What’s happening in Ukraine is generational and it’s tragic and I hope it ends soon.”

To help even more, instead of Brock flying over with the ventilators and other donated supplies, PVA CEO Tony Hynes shipped it all for him and it’s already being distributed by Ukraine Focus.

Hynes also shared with us another machine that they designed specifically to help with wounded civilians and soldiers needing prosthetic limbs. Watch the web exclusive below for more information.