Ilya Butnaru and his family had big plans: Move with his parents and seven siblings from Moldova, a small landlocked country just north of the Balkans in Eastern Europe, and come to the United States. They had family living in the U.S. and had planned the move for some time. In their final preparations, the family had sold most of their household items. Then on Sept. 11, 2001, everything changed.
“We did not move and it was a hard winter to get through,” says Ilya. “I was 14 years old at the time and I remember not having a stockpile of food to pull from.”
After a long winter, the family eventually moved to the U.S. on April 8, 2002. They arrived in Massachusetts, and then proceeded to move to North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, before settling in Missouri.
Ilya had plans to work with his father in the construction industry. In the 11th grade, he recalls questioning if high school was for him. Then, while working on a job, he fell more than 40 feet from a roof. Fortunately, he ended up breaking only a few ribs. Ilya was shocked that he walked away and lived to tell about it.
The experience changed his attitude about his future. He enrolled in credit recovery classes at Dadeville High School, where he eventually graduated.
Working with his hands, building and putting things together and taking them apart, always came easy to Ilya. In 2011, he started taking general education classes at Ozarks Technical Community College. He eventually enrolled at Linn State (State Technical College of Missouri) in their Biomedical Engineering program.
“My mom had a health scare and she ended up at Cox South and my dad called and asked me to come to the hospital to translate,” he says. Ilya’s parents did not have health insurance and they were worried about paying the hospital bills.
“My mom was reluctant to spend the night in the hospital because of the bills and I remember the physician telling my parents not to worry about the bills, just focus on her and the care she needs,” he says. After hearing that, Ilya says he knew CoxHealth was a place that he wanted to work. His parents applied for and received financial assistance through the CoxHealth Foundation to pay a large portion of the bills they incurred, and because of this, Ilya knew he wanted to help people — just like CoxHealth helped his family.
Internships were not required in college, but they were highly recommended. So, Ilya called around to various places and Brian Hoff, system director of Biomed at CoxHealth, was the only person to return his call. He offered Ilya an internship at Cox South.
“I just learned so much that summer,” Ilya says. “It was really hands-on training.” After the internship, he knew that working in biomedical engineering was the right choice.
Ilya went back to school and stayed in touch with Brian. Eventually, he applied for a position and started working as a biomedical technician at Cox Monett in 2014.
Since then, he’s made it his business to care for our patients by applying his technical skill to maintain a wide range of hospital equipment.
He takes a lot pride in his job and says he keeps patients and staff safe by performing preventative maintenance and checking equipment to make sure it is configured properly and safely functional.
“When people ask me what I do, I always say my top priority is keeping patients, staff and visitors safe,” he says.